Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has moved to broaden her appeal to people of faith, jesting about challenging Tony Abbott to a contest in reciting scripture, following statements opposing same-sex marriage and euthanasia, said The Australian.
Ms Gillard this week underlined her conservative credentials by telling parliament that while she was an atheist, she had been schooled in religious studies as a child.
"I did have the benefit of a very rigorous grounding at the Mitcham Baptist Church, which included endless committing to memory of catechisms - I was actually a prize-winner at it," Ms Gillard said.
"I've been known to joke with the Leader of the Opposition in the past that one day we'll go head-to-head on our ability to recite sections of the Bible by rote."
The comments came after opposition MP Peter Slipper asked Ms Gillard why the proposed new national curriculum for schools made no mention of the Bible.
She strongly backed the draft curriculum, saying it promoted free thought and she wanted Australian children to develop skills in critical analysis so they made up their own minds about issues. "We live in a democracy which values free conscience and free thinking," Ms Gillard said.
"That's the kind of education I want for Australian children, and that's the kind of education the national curriculum is aimed at."
While the draft national curriculum does not mention the Bible, it does set out the teaching of culture as a "complex system of concepts, values, norms, beliefs and practices" and includes the "impact of beliefs and values" on society in human history.
FULL STORY AND RELATED COVERAGE
Atheist Julia challenges mad monk Tony to a bible knowledge contest (The Australian)
Amen to that - atheist Gillard just loves the good book (Sydney Morning Herald)