VICTORIAN state primary school students will soon have an alternative — religious education lessons taught by people who do not believe in God and say there is "no evidence of any supernatural power".
The Humanist Society of Victoria has developed a curriculum, which the State Government accreditation body says it intends to approve, to deliver 30-minute lessons each week of "humanist applied ethics" to primary pupils.
Accredited volunteers will be able to teach their philosophy in the class time designated for religious instruction. As with lessons delivered by faith groups, parents will be able to request that their children do not participate.
Victorian Humanist Society president Stephen Stuart said: "Atheistical parents will be pleased to hear that humanistic courses of ethics will soon be available in some state schools."
But the body that accredits Victoria's 3500 Christian religious instruction volunteers, Access Ministries, says humanism is not a religion and so should not be taught in religious education time.
Access Ministries now teaches in about two-thirds of state primary schools. Other accredited instructors teach Judaism, Buddhism and Baha'i.
The Humanist Society does not consider itself to be a religious organisation and believes ethics have "no necessary connection with religion". Humanists believe people are responsible for their own destiny and reject the notion of a supernatural force or God.