The Secular Education Network (SEN) is launching a fresh challenge against Bible in Schools programmes, claiming "religious bias" has led to children and parents being bullied over their decision to opt out of classes.

Twenty-six witnesses have filed evidence for a new case being launched in the Human Rights Review Tribunal, brought by David Hines and Tanya Jacob.

They will be claiming that section 78 of the Education Act 1964 - which permitted the programmes - is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act, according to a statement from SEN.

It said the act led to bullying of children and their parents, and job discrimination against parents and teachers who complained.


The case would also complain that the Education Act 1989 permitted biased teaching about religions and non-religious beliefs in social studies and other classes, and stopped the Ministry of Education from monitoring it or taking action.

The network had compiled 722 pages of evidence, including from parents, leaders identifying as Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim, religious studies experts and a psychologist.

Hines' and Jacob's case followed a challenge in the High Court in 2015 by Jeff McClintock, complaining about religious instruction at Red Beach School in north Auckland, SEN said.

Jeff McClintock will be a witness at the new case being brought by the Secular Education Network. Photo/NZHerald
Jeff McClintock will be a witness at the new case being brought by the Secular Education Network. Photo/NZHerald

McClintock would be acting as a witness in Hines' and Jacob's case.

The Human Rights Commission had been accepted as an interested non-party, the SEN statement said.

The Churches Education Commission, which runs religious instruction classes in more than 600 state schools, had also been accepted as an interested non-party with a right to present evidence.

The commission could not be reached for comment tonight.

On its website a code of expectations for teachers says they are to "educate children about Christian beliefs and values" but "must not use their position to engage in evangelism".


They are also expected to "respect the variety of experiences and beliefs represented among the students".

Hines told the Herald Jacob's daughter was bullied so much after opting out of a religious instruction class that she ended up going to a different school.

Materials used in religious instruction classes caused pain and offense to many non-Christians, but it was also painful for them to be separated from their peers as an alternative, he said.

He believed CEC had made "a few" changes to its syllabus in the past few years but that they were not substantive.

Programmes which saw religious youth workers being placed in state high schools would also come under fire during the hearing, Hines said.

But he said many in the SEN did not want religious education scrapped altogether. Instead they wanted a "neutral" form of religious education that covered a wide range of religions as well as atheism.

"We would not mind religious material being taught in social studies or other parts of curriculum - in fact we would like that to happen more than it does at the moment. But it would include a wide range of religions and non-religions as well."

No date had yet been set for the hearing but it was expected to take two weeks.