Developments on the ‘ban’ of Christmas Carols in Victorian Schools

Over the last few days there have been developments on the issue of Christmas songs in Victorian State Schools.  Although, perhaps ‘side-step’ or ‘entanglement’ is a better description than development!

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This week, the Geelong Advertiser’s front page headline is, ‘Don’t Take Our Carols. Religious Xmas songs could be banned at schools, claims Katos”

On December 12, former Attorney General and current member for Box Hill, Robert Clark, wrote this.

“It’s hard to believe it could happen, but this year’s school Christmas concerts may be the last at which children are allowed to sing traditional carols, under new State government rules quietly introduced last month.

Well known and much loved Christmas carols like Silent Night, Away in the Manger and Come All Ye Faithful are all caught by the new bans.

The Education Department has instructed government school principals that parent volunteers or outside music instructors are not allowed to teach carols or other “praise music” to students unless it is “common societally recognised music” (whatever that means).

As well, teachers will only be allowed to teach carols if it is part of “general religious instruction”.

The new rules have already caused at least one school to decide to remove traditional carols from their end of year performance, before reversing the decision after parent protest.

Next year, many more schools are likely to decide it is easier to scrap Christmas carols altogether rather than try to work out whether or when they are allowed to have them under the new rules.

It’s not clear whether these new rules are part of a deliberate move to drive out Christmas carols from schools, or the unintended consequences of bureaucratic incompetence and bad drafting.

Either way, the government must withdraw these new rules and allow students at government schools to learn, sing and enjoy Christmas carols as they have for generations.”

Member for Mildura, Peter Crisp, is under the same impression and yesterday began a petition asking for Daniel Andrews to reverse his decision in banning Christian carols from our schools

Education Minister, James Merlino, has today released this response,

“You may have heard ridiculous claims from Coalition MPs that we have banned Christmas carols in schools. That is just untrue.

To be absolutely clear, traditional Christmas carols have been and will continue to be sung at our government schools (including my girls’ school).

These lies are creating unnecessary angst within the community and those spreading this misinformation should be ashamed.

Don’t let the grinches get you down. I hope you all enjoy singing your favourite carols with family and friends this Christmas…I know I will!”

I am pleased to hear Mr Merlino repudiating the claims being made by what is now a growing number of Victorian MPs. However if the new policy is so clear, why are the media continuing to suggest that songs referencing Jesus and God will be prohibited? Are concerned MPs simply playing politics with this issue or is their concern legitimate, and if so, what is the basis for their concerns except for a Government directive which is ambiguous?

We all know that there are Christmas Carols and there are Christmas Carols. While most of us enjoy singing secular favourites about Santa, reindeer and snowmen, will ‘Away in a Manger’ and ‘The First Noel’ be permitted in our schools next year? I do not mean to sound disingenuous but clarity is lacking, and recent history gives Victorians reason to ask questions. After all, even now our schools can only sing verse 1 of ‘Away in a Manger’, such is the danger attached to singing its other verses!

I have asked Mr Merlino for clarification on this matter, and am waiting to hear back. I will be encouraged to hear a guaranteed ‘yes’ from the Minister.

For a State that alleges to celebrate diversity and freedom, it is sad to see us having this discussion, even school children singing Christmas songs about Jesus has become contentious, and perhaps to intolerable.

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Shortly after publishing this post it came to my attention that I had misquoted James Merlino.  I rectified the mistake immediately to ensure it is accurate. Apologies to anyone who read the misquote

Christmas Carols in Melbourne

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I love Christmas and singing Christmas Carols.

At a time when there is much uncertainty and sadness across our world, what better way to spend a Sunday evening in the lead up to Christmas than for people to get together, and to enjoy singing timeless songs that remind us of a God who brings joy and peace.

You don’t have to be a Christian to come along, or religious in the slightest.  Every one is welcome at Mentone Baptist Church on Sunday December 20th at 6pm.

We also have a service on Christmas morning, 9:30-10:15am.

Click on the picture for further details about these events.

Hope to see you there

 

 

Return of the Christmas Grinch

The Grinch has jumped off the pages of Dr Seuss and has landed in town.  In Victoria, the current Government have informed state schools that Christmas celebrations can continue, but  references to Jesus Christ are discouraged and may even be outlawed.

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Like blowing out candles and eating a birthday without celebrating an actual birthday, it’s ok to celebrate Christmas, so long as we avoid talking about its actual significance.

The Bible is now banned from being mentioned during school time and no more prayers. Even hymns are prohibited, although carols are ok.  Can anyone tell me how a school is meant to differentiate between a hymn and a carol? Does that mean Jingle Bells still rocks, but Away in a Manger has been thrown out?  Are songs about an obese man obsessed with dressing in strange costumes in, but songs about the birth of Jesus  are out? We can mention the reindeer but not the donkey, the elves but not the shepherds?

Perhaps this has less to do with religion and more about discriminating against classical music in favour of crappy pop songs. After all, has there been a genuine classic Christmas song composed in the last 50 years? Any school performing Handel’s Messiah had better watch out.

To be fair, Education Minister, James Merlino, has said, “As with other curriculum decisions, schools will make the decision as to which Christmas carols feature as part of classroom activities.” So maybe, just maybe,  there is still so room in our schools to sing  ‘Joy to the world’.

I like the Grinch; when he’s mean he is funny, and in the end the Grinch realises the folly of his ways, but real life isn’t always so comical.  We can easily close our children’s books but we should not be so quick to overlook our history books.

There is a lesson from history that the Daniel Andrews’ Government are ignoring, and it is a lesson that was taught at the very first Christmas.  At the time when Jesus was about to be born, Joseph and Mary were knocked back by the BMA (Bethlehem Motel Association); no one wanted them, and so Jesus was born in a cave where animals sheltered at night. When news of Jesus’ birth reached the Government, they didn’t take it too well. In fact , the man in charge, Herod, sent his cronies across to Bethlehem to stamp out any mention of Jesus.

Well, we know how history ended up, Jesus won, and Herod and the citizens of Bethlehem with their closed door policy have been booed into incongruity ever since.

These new  Herodian-like policies in our schools ought to be respected; they are stupid but we must obey them, for the Scriptures tell us to do so (Romans 13). However, I think it is wise for us to revisit history, because by giving it the cold-shoulder we are bound to repeat the same errors that others before us have made.

While Herod hounded and Bethlehem was brusque, at the same time some of the smartest people and the lowest people of that time,  did go to Bethlehem seeking Jesus and in finding him  worshipped him as king and God. History remembers well the Magi and the Shepherds .

If you’re not a fan of Herod, and you do love Christmas, why not visit one of the many churches that will be celebrating the birth of Jesus and singing all the carols we love? And maybe do it soon, just in case someone has the cracker idea that talking about Jesus in Church is no longer a tolerable thing to do.

There is an invitation to Mentone Baptist’s Christmas services here. Indeed, I would like to extend an invitation to Mr Andrews and Mr Merlino to attend our Carols Service on December 20th, 6pm. You and your families are very welcome to join us.

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