Unwittingly, Gaye O'Connor has fired the first salvo in what should prove an interesting year for those interested in the secular/religious divide.
The Carlton School principal has brought to the surface the problems with our national anthem.
Some parents found her questions confronting - they thought it showed a "lack of respect for New Zealand's ancestry". For them, any questioning is tantamount to disloyalty.
But Joshua Barley's letter to the editor, (February 27) spells it out. The "overtly religious connotation of the lyrics, the character of a religious observance, not all parents are comfortable with their child's involuntary conscription into something that goes against their personal convictions".
It is unlikely the kids at Carlton declined to sing for this reason, but for an increasing number of parents the sentiments are out-dated.
They object to an anthem that is really a treatise on collective self-abasement with its allusions to dutiful deity boot-licking.
The Prime Minister termed the language arcane; some parts are simply incomprehensible.
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I recall my high-school days of chanting sections of the mass in Latin.
The phrases oozed dignity and tradition.
Then the Pope declared mass was to be in English, and for the first time I was confronted with what I had been saying. Did I really believe what I was chanting deliriously?
This year will see the place of religion in our schools placed under the spotlight.
The topic has been fast-tracked to the High Court, and the right to teach Bible stories in our primary schools will be tested.
Known as the Nelson System, schools are technically closed for a short time each week when volunteers are allowed in to conduct their programme, but there has always been a conflict with our Education Act which asserts NZ education is free, secular and compulsory.
And what to do with the other kids while these classes are being conducted?
If they withdraw their kids, the parents do not like them being consigned meaningless tasks, and some kids want to go with their friends.
They pressure their parents to allow them to attend. Education Minister Chris Hipkins has already stated that these classes must now be on an opt-in basis.
But a bigger headache is looming in the integrated sector.
Integrated schools are religious schools.
They are fully funded by the taxpayer on the understanding they are providing a religious environment for a sector of the community who are deeply committed to their faith.
But the Census statistics show that the beliefs that sustained them have largely evaporated.
Many parishioners would be better described as spiritual than religious.
Their idea of a church is a community hub where they support the needy, welcome immigrants, promote music and hospitality to reach out to others.
Organised Christianity is in disarray, and the numbers are largely boosted by immigrants from more religious lands.
But that is not what the taxpayer thought he was buying into. Whatever happened to old-fashioned baptism, confirmation, attendance at mass?
The lament of church leaders remains the same; Our schools are full, our churches are empty. Some time soon the taxpayer will ask if the churches are empty, why are we funding the schools?
And this is the question that bothers the minister supervising the charities.
The minister has recently completed a review on the Charities Act, but the Law Society is incensed at the narrow focus of the review.
They are demanding a review of the basic principles of charitable gifting and tax-exempt companies.
The Cabinet directions are adamant; there must be no discussion on the four pillars of charitable gifting, no discussion on anything that might result in changes to tax exemption.
The biggest areas of charitable gifting are education and religion.
But why should wealthy parents be given tax credit amounting to 33 per cent on every dollar they donate to their child's education at an exclusive school?
Where's the public benefit in that?
The intent of the Act was to encourage and reward wealthy people to donate to the education of the less fortunate, but our tax laws seemed designed to help those to help themselves.
Why should non-religious taxpayers be required to subsidise religious parents?
By all means parents should be encouraged to donate to their churches or schools, but there seems no good reason that a secular country should grant them tax concessions.
Waikato Diocesan is a religious school fully funded by the Government.
Parents donate $7500 to the school each year, and the taxpayer returns $2500 to them as tax-credit. The minister is nervous that someone is going to ask "Why?"
•Guy Gifford is a Whanganui-based commentator.