Watch: 'There are no secrets' – parents and church clash over religious education in schools

Allegations that religious education in public schools is leading to bullying and potential grooming have been slammed by the country's largest provider.

Allegations that religious education in our public schools is leading to bullying and potential grooming are being slammed. Source: 1 NEWS

The Churches Education Commission is outraged by claims made by secular education campaigners who've taken their message to the school gate in an effort to have the classes stopped altogether.  

The Secular Education Network is handing out leaflets which claim children are being ostracised or bullied if they opt out of the weekly lessons, and if they attend.

Tanya Jacob of the Secular Education Network said there are "really quite serious concerns, even concerns about potential for grooming, keeping secrets with children that they're not allowed to go home and tell their parents".

Asked is it scaremongering to use the word grooming, she said: "I think it's accurate, whether it's religious grooming or potential for other sorts of grooming." 

The Churches Education Commission teaches in around 600 schools and says its lessons focus on Bible stories and teaching life values.

Abbey Reeve of the commission said Ms Jacob is "really inflaming stuff that parents would be very scared about. But it's not true, there is none of this keeping of secrets, there's none of this hiding stuff". 

Ms Reeve says the focus of the Secular Education Network criticism is around a teaching model that was abandoned in New Zealand eight years ago.

"It is scaremongering. It is not truthful and it is not the correct view of what happens in our lessons in New Zealand."

Handing out the pamphlets isn't just a one-off. The secular education campaigners plan to be outside Christchurch schools two or three days a week to get their message out there.

But with a waiting list of schools wanting religious courses, providers say the protesters are well and truly in the minority.