OAC Ministries Australia
Regarding the portrayal of OAC Ministries by A Current Affair on 11 June 2014
(click this link for a pdf of the document)
On behalf of the Board of OAC Ministries Australia (OACM), and our constituency, we express our frustration with the segment aired on “A Current Affair” (ACA) on Wednesday night 11 June 2014, about “fundamentalist extremists” in government schools in Victoria. There were numerous inaccuracies in the public portrayal of OACM, which we wish to correct.
1. The footage that ACA ran to show OACM as “fundamentalist extremists” was actually footage declaring ourselves to be the opposite. The footage showed “a spokesperson” for OAC Ministries, misinterpreted out of a context which had nothing to do with schools. The video clip is online http://missionplatform.com/#!/a/oac-ministries/outreach-specialists-the-missing-link as part of a website listing reputable evangelists for churches looking for various ministries. The video makes sense in that context: for those with a Biblical background, it is perfectly possible to use the word evangelist in a positive sense. That is, “someone who (ethically and appropriately) brings good news.” The speaker was actually saying that “evangelism” is thought of in such negative terms so often that people fearfully avoid it, but in its Biblical meaning it is a good thing – and this is what OACM specializes in doing for churches. We are actually normal everyday Aussies who work hard to present good news in sensitive and interesting ways. Lifting that clip out of that context and putting it in a schools context, with a dastardly spin, was most inaccurate. ACA clearly implied evangelist to mean someone who coerces, proselytizes, and manipulates children to join their religion, in schools. That is not what OAC Ministries does.
2. ACA also made the untrue accusation that “OAC Ministries was banned from all Victorian schools in 2013 because for years prior they had been coming into our schools without permission and delivering the kind of religious instruction that the department of education described as ‘completely unacceptable.’”
- We were not banned, and we did have permission as far as anyone knew (ACCESS, us, school principals, and government). Our staff were all accredited SRI presenters, via the government- approved accrediting body, ACCESS Ministries. In 2013 it came to light that ACCESS could not accredit our organisation, even though it accredited our individuals. Hence our presentations were not covered. Thus, even though our RE presentations were perfectly ethical and educational, we voluntarily ceased presenting in Victorian government schools until our accreditation can be addressed with integrity.
- The Department of Education and Child Development in Victoria has never commented on our religious instruction material, much less ever called it ‘completely unacceptable.’ They trusted our accreditation by ACCESS as we all did. We delivered hundreds of seminars per year for decades, and ACCESS are on record as having received no complaints about our school seminars. Which you must agree would be strange if we were such extremists!
The truth is, we seek to teach with excellence in religious education, and act with integrity in all aspects of our behavior. Our presenters are well trained and equipped for our presentations, which are repeated and constantly refined to avoid unethical conduct, and to maximize educational value.
3. We are frustrated that ACA did not contact us at OAC Ministries, but instead went to air using our name in a way that insulted our good reputation. We expected that fair-minded journalism would seek all sides of a story, rather than freely promote the extreme views of just one group. It seems clear that FIRIS (Fairness In Religion In Schools) was the group whose cause was being freely promoted on this occasion. The ‘victim parent’ depicted in the ACA segment, Lara Wood, is the FIRIS Campaign Coordinator. The other parent was Scott Hedges, Co-founder of FIRIS. The extreme angle taken by ACA was standard lobbying from FIRIS. It appears that ACA simply ran the story fed to them from the zealous FIRIS campaign team, with little journalistic effort.
What we believe, and many other Christians across our State and our nation also believe, is that what the ACA segment needed was a much more truthful and balanced view of the overall picture.
We gladly admit to believing “that Jesus is a real person,” as most fair-minded people, both religious and non religious, would agree. We also believe that Jesus Christ enriches the lives of all who trust in him. So as educators we teach that Christians believe such things, but without the coercion or any of the manipulations suggested by the ACA story. And there are many people in our State and across the rest of Australia who also believe that our public schools are indeed better places if trusted groups like ACCESS Ministries and OAC Ministries are able to give quality presentations which are both about our faith, and also enrich the moral tone and values of our great nation.
Respectfully submitted, from the other side of this story.
OAC Ministries Australia