SUVA, Fiji (Mar. 17) - A child deserves nothing but the best.

With no fewer than 1,214 religious bodies registered in Fiji, there must be room for debate on how necessary all of these are, how and if they should be managed and how and if they contribute to the spiritual well-being of the nation.

The overwhelming majority of those 1,214 organizations would proclaim themselves Christian. At the same time the overwhelming majority of Christians would support the Methodist Church’s stand that those cults that prevent their children from attending school are no more than Satanic movements.

And, as is debated on the facing page of today’s issue, our Constitution is ambivalent on the issue. It guarantees the right of all children to an education but at the same time guarantees freedom of religion. As a society we will, sooner or later, be obliged to make a ruling on this. This newspaper submits that it is the birthright of every child to receive the best education the nation can offer. This is not a right that parents can opt out of - no matter their reason.

To argue, as some extremist Christian groups have done, that sending a child to school diverts him or her from preparing for the arrival of the Lord is pure drivel. There is no indication that God wanted His people to dwell in ignorance and it can even be argued that deliberate ignorance is a sin. More importantly, perhaps, parents who prevent their children from attending school condemn them to a life devoid of opportunity - surely one of the gravest sins a parent can commit. And, of course, they’re breaking the law.

So, while recognizing the right to freedom of religion it should also be acknowledged that the founding fathers of the Constitution would never for a moment have considered it a device to deprive children of their educational birthright. It must therefore be time to take a careful look at those so-called churches that visit such sins upon their children. The rights of the child must be upheld even at the expense of the right to freedom of worship.

March 18, 2005


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