Withdraw Tax Money For School Chaplains
John Howard launched the national School Chaplaincy program in 2006 providing taxpayers’ money to support religious activity in the nation’s schools.
It is now being constitutionally challenged. Plaintiff Ronald Williams is arguing that the Commonwealth lacked the executive power to enter into the funding agreement at his children’s school and “by requiring school chaplains engaged at the school to comply with the stipulation set out in the NCSP Guidelines, the Commonwealth is imposing a religious test as a qualification for office under the Commonwealth in contravention of Section 116 of the Constitution.”
Section 116 states, “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonweatlh.”
My view has always been government funding for school chaplains is wrongheaded and should have been abandoned with the election of the Rudd government.
The program introduces religiosity into state schools. As might have been predicted in 2006, school chaplains in Queensland are conducting Christian prayers at school assemblies and conducting lunchtime prayer and Bible club and study sessions. Fine, but the taxpayer is funding it and this was meant to be a program that saw them as counsellors, not as evangelists. They also recruit students for “Jesus boot camps.” Taxpayers are funding Christian evangelistic activity.
Kevin Rudd in 2009 promised the Australian Christian Lobby an “investment” of $42 million to extend the chaplaincy program to 2011. Prime Minister Gillard has allocated $222 million to extend the program to 1000 more Australian schools.
Like Thomas Jefferson I believe in “a wall of separation” between church and state. I don’t want to see squabbles at P and C meetings about whether a minister, priest, imam or rabbi gets the gig for a school. John Howard was adamant that “Students need the guidance of chaplains, rather than just counsellors.” The notion of the state funding religious activity is abhorrent.
Good luck to the solicitors Horowitz and Bilinsky, and barristers Bret Walker SC and Gerald Ng.