School kids who talk about Jesus or exchange Christmas cards with classmates could find themselves penalized under new proposals that would clamp down on references to Christianity on school campuses.
The Australian reports that an unofficial policy is being floated among Queensland education officials to ban references to Jesus in primary school yards.
The proposals come off the back of a review into religious instruction by the state's education department that could see the end of primary school kids being able to talk about Jesus with their peers or give them Christmas cards with Christian references.
According to the report in The Australian, young students may face consequences if they break the rules.
It quotes an advisory note from the education department that says, 'While not explicitly prohibited by the (legislation), nor referenced in the Religious Instruction (RI) policy, the department expects schools to take appropriate action if aware that students participating in RI are evangelising to students who do not.'
The report adds, 'This could adversely affect the school's ability to provide a safe, supportive and inclusive environment.'
Specific actions of concern to education officials include sharing Christmas cards that reference the birth of Jesus and giving home-made beaded bracelets to friends 'as a way of sharing the good news about Jesus.'
Not everyone agrees with the proposals, with Newcastle University's religion and law professor Neil Foster saying they were 'possibly illegal.'
Centre for Independent Studies senior research fellow Peter Kurti said it was a 'massive assault on freedom of speech and freedom of religion.'
'I don't think people are on the whole affronted by the handing out of Christmas cards,' he said.
It's not only in the school grounds that expressing faith is at risk in Australia. One teacher last year found himself facing disciplinary action after voicing opposition to same-sex marriage on a Facebook forum outside of school hours.
According to The Australian, Ian Shepherd, a teacher in Alice Springs, was presented with a notice to show cause over his comments. However, the Northern Territory Education Department decided later that it wouldn't take any action.