Title: Students cry for help against Destiny Credit: Humanist Outlook; Comment Friday 4th March 2005 - 12:00pm1109890800 Article: 639 Rights
When the black-shirted hoardes of the Destiny Church invaded Wellington last August to demand the dumping of the Civil Union Bill, a group of students at Wellington High were at pains to draw the media's – not to mention their school's – attention to the fact that the political church had already invaded their learning space. Destiny Church's Wellington branch hires the school's facilities for their Sunday services and political rallies, and despite over half the school's students signing a petition demanding Principal Prue Kelly have them removed, the protests have fallen on deaf ears. When contacted Kelly, she did what can best be described as a “Pontius Pilate”, washing her hands of the whole affair and suggesting that the protests were some sort of manipulated gay community-sponsored effort, rather than grass-roots activism by her own students. “I don't really want to get involved in this,” she told us via email. “We have an agreement with the Church that lasts until March. After that I will meet with the Church again. It would be great if the gay and lesbian community chose another arena to fight with the Destiny Church,” she added. It would be interesting to see Pontius Prue's response to a student being bullied – would she absolve herself of responsibility in that situation, asking that the victim find “another arena” to fight with the bully? If the bully was paying the school money to retain a presence there, would that make any difference? Not content to let the issue go, some of the students have formed a group, “Not In Our School's Destiny”, to continue lobbying their principal and the Board of Trustees to listen to their wishes. Two of the group's spokespeople, Anne and Max, recently appeared on the “Humanist Outlook” programme on Wellington's Access Radio to discuss the current situation. This transcript is published with permission of Humanist Outlook and has been slightly edited by for clarity. * HOST: Max and Anne have been involved in protests about the Destiny Church occupying space at Wellington High School. ANNE: The Destiny Church promote hate against the people who deserve it least. They're promoting hate against the gay and lesbian people of the community, single parent families, and other families that don't fit the nuclear model. We just don't feel that's right for our school environment. HOST: Do you feel comfortable using the word hate? Is dislike a better word? ANNE: When someone talks about the values and the livelihoods and the moral standards of a group of people being evil and sexually perverted, I'd say that's pretty much hate. HOST: You feel uncomfortable with these people at Wellington High. What to you would be a happy outcome? MAX: We would like the Destiny Church to be given notice, a ninety day notice, from the principal of our school, and for them to leave. HOST: What's the official attitude to this? Obviously some, at least, of the students take your view. How's the school reacting? ANNE: Well the students themselves, a majority of them have signed a petition requesting that the Destiny Church be given notice. The principal Prue Kelly has pretty much avoided the subject completely. She won't comment, and the board of trustees have ignored letters from students. MAX: I talked to Miss Kelly about a week ago, and she's very reluctant to give anything away to us. However, we do seem to be making some headway with her. But mostly she's been very difficult to deal with. HOST: You've certainly made some headway with the news media. Has there been a favourable reaction otherwise? ANNE: Many parents support the students in their view that the Destiny Church is not right for Wellington High School. And although the media views have sometimes been a little unfavourable, we're pleased with the results. MAX: We feel that most of our community is backing us. Definitely we feel we have a lot of support. HOST: They're hiring the hall for a few hours on the weekends, aren't they? MAX: Yes, the Destiny Church every Sunday uses our hall for their political and religious ceremony. And they also use our classrooms on Mondays. They did a rally there before their “Enough is Enough” march, and they hire other facilities too every now and then. HOST: It's occurred to me for the first time, actually, that this is a Christian group and they've picked on probably the major non-Christian, or a-religious school in the city. Any comment on that? ANNE: Well, Wellington High is accepting of all religions and creeds, but they are a bit extreme. We're not saying they're intolerable, or that they are not a contributing part of society. But we don't think a school is the right environment, or that they'll provide the right environment for our school. HOST: Is it just a straight commercial operation? Just asking to hire the hall and they've been given it? MAX: Yes. HOST: Now there's been some vandalism… ANNE: Yes, there's a Wellington High school support group called School's Out for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and questioning students. They had posters up around the school, these posters were torn down during the time Destiny was using the school facilities. HOST: Is this primarily a gay issue? Is it Destiny Church's stand on gay matters, and the students support of gay people that's caused the main rift here? MAX: I'd say it was the main cause of the rift, but definitely not the only cause. And definitely the entire school community feels offended by what they've said. HOST: Thanks very much to Max and Anne. I should explain they're both final year students at Wellington High and we've very pleased to have had them in today… Humanist Outlook; - 4th March 2005    
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