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School Bible stoush heading back to court

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/06/2016

The battle over whether state schools can teach the Bible looks set to be fought out in a court of law after all.

Kate Sheppard, the Olympics and Maui have all been referenced by a group called the Secular Education Network, which wants to argue that the Education Act, in allowing the teaching of religious education in schools, clashes with the Bill of Rights.

Member Jeff McClintock had started legal action against Red Beach School, a primary school north of Auckland, and the attorney-general when in 2012 his daughter was included in Bible classes without his permission.

Unfortunately, his case was struck off earlier this year by the High Court because $6600 in court fees were not paid nor submissions made in time.

In the Court of Appeal in Wellington on Wednesday, his lawyer Richard Francois sought to have the case reinstated because of its merits.

However, Red Beach School won't be involved while SEN also wishes to be a party.

"This is a case about religious freedom, the first opportunity of its kind for New Zealanders to achieve for themselves the rights and freedoms in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act," Mr Francois said.

He then went on to cite the story of suffragette Kate Sheppard, the individual efforts of Maui and the ideals of the Olympics.

Mr McClintock was being subject to religious discrimination and was suffering because he belonged to a group that believed in secular education, he said.

"Our laws must reflect not just the rights of those of a particular religion ... but the rights and freedoms of all the people."

The court was told of the lack of preparation in the "untidy" case before it was due to go to the High Court and how no one agreed on what happened with Mr McClintock's daughter and the Bible classes.

The idea of reinstating the case in the High Court got a sympathetic ear.

Justice Rhys Harrison says the parties have seven days to come up with an agreed set of facts and then it can go back to the High Court.

However, he warned Mr McClintock would have to come up with all the fees for it to go back to court, including the Court of Appeal's $2700.

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