When I was a child, I had a note from my parents that excused me from religious instruction. This was mainly due to my mother's wishes. She was as staunch an atheist as anyone I have ever met. I believe the class was somewhere from half an hour to an hour a week, during which time myself, a Japanese kid and another boy who I now assume was Jewish, would sit and draw or read.
It wasn't exactly wasted time, as I have fond memories of how quiet and relaxing it was. A much more effective alternative however would have been to have the whole class sit through a session on ethics, rationality and morality as applied to society as a whole, taken by a real teacher.
Christian values don’t have a foundation that can be reasoned out. The Bible is convoluted and is subject to many interpretations, but the majority of kids in Victoria who attend our religious instruction in state schools not only get just one religion, but one narrow evangelical interpretation of that religion.
At present, accredited volunteers from Access Ministries, the evangelical Christian group, provide over 90 per cent of religious instruction in Victorian public schools. Like all evangelical ministries, Access are on a mission to convert people to Jesus and the education department has allowed them access to the most vulnerable and trusting element in society: our kids.
The classroom is where you sit still, listen to the teacher and believe what you are told. Kids aren't told that the person taking the class is expressing an opinion and is a volunteer, and is not a teacher. When religion is presented in this forum, even inquisitive intelligent kids may start to believe it.
Faith is an opinion, a way of looking at the world, and is not based on immutable facts: otherwise it wouldn’t be called faith, would it?