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Christmas carols banned…..?

Bah! Humbug…..

The Australian     |      23 December 2015

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In those years in which Labor is in office in Victoria, you can be sure News Limited will run a story this time of the year about how Christmas in some respect has been “banned” in government schools.  This year it was an op-ed in The Australian by one Simon Breheny who claims that Victorian education minister James Merlino issued a “diktat” in effect banning Christmas carols in government schools.    Not so, says Merlino in this response which features prominently in the digital edition of  The Oz, but is reduced to a letter to editor in the print edition – and not even the first one on this issue.   The Victorian Education and Training Act 2006  explicitly acknowledges the right of freedom of religion and prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion or faith.  But it also provides that education in Victoria will be secular and will not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect.  This means that priests, rabbis, imams, monks, nuns or lay people can’t waltz into schools during school hours to conduct religious activities and quite rightly so.  That can be done before school, after school, or during lunch time. The Oz described Breheny as the  director of the legal rights project at the Institute of Public Affairs; it left out the bit about him being president of the Young Liberal Movement of Australia.

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This time of year is often referred to as the “silly season” and I haven’t seen a better example of this than the article entitled Christmas Carol Ban Is Out Of Tune With Society by president of the Young Liberal Movement of Australia, Simon Breheny.

This ridiculous piece is all part of a Liberal Party campaign to convince Victorians that we have banned Christmas carols in schools. Not only is this untrue, it is a shameful attempt to drive a wedge in our community.

Victorian schoolchildren — like my own daughters who attend government schools — can sing any Christmas carol they want at their school.

From classics such as Away in a Manger, Silent Night, and Oh Come All Ye Faithful, to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and Jingle Bells.

The guidance given to Victorian principals this year was clear: schools can put up Christmas decorations or pictures of Santa, sing carols or decorate Christmas trees on school grounds, as these items have a cultural place in Australian society.

The guidance also stated that other activities, such as colourful celebrations during Diwali and candle lighting during Hanukkah, were not banned.

However, if an outside provider such as Access Ministries, or a volunteer group, wishes to come to a school and sing religious songs, this is considered Special Religious Instruction and must be done before school, after school, or during lunch time.

The guidelines exist to make it clear that there is no proselytising in Victorian government schools.

These lies are creating unnecessary angst within the community, and those spreading this misinformation should be ashamed. I wonder if these MPs and others who are pushing this lie have taken a moment to read the comments of those they are inciting on their Facebook pages? Do they support the bile of the United Patriots Front or English Defence League, who are now sharing their posts online?

The Liberal Party needs to come clean with its constituents: tell them the truth, and stop trying to score cheap political points in the lead-up to Christmas.

I hope you all enjoy singing your favourite carols with family and friends this Christmas … I know I will!

Silent Night” (German: Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village in the Austrian Empire on the Salzach river in present-day Austria. A young priest, Father Joseph Mohr, had come to Oberndorf the year before. He had already written the lyrics of the song “Stille Nacht” in 1816.  The melody was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf. Before Christmas Eve, Mohr brought the words to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the church service. Both performed the carol during the mass on the night of December 24.   It was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011.

 

 

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