Sections

Services

Information

UK United Kingdom

School chaplaincy case: a missed opportunity for secular education

The historic majority Australian High Court ruling that the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) is “invalid” is a gift to the argument for secular public education. Secular statutes (for example…

The High Court landmark decision in the school chaplaincy case is an opportunity for reform. Flickr/petelawley

The historic majority Australian High Court ruling that the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) is “invalid” is a gift to the argument for secular public education.

Secular statutes (for example the NSW and Victorian Education Acts) exist at the state level and the Federal Government has no right to overturn them.

Strangely, however, with the gift in their hands Attorney General Nicola Roxon and Federal Education Minister Peter Garrett have immediately defended chaplaincy, publicly declaring their aim to find another funding route.

Why? Heaven (and perhaps the Australian Christian Lobby) only knows.

Government-funded religious instruction

The High Court decision in favour of Ron Williams, a parent concerned over his children’s rights to freedom from religious intrusion, has implications for other school religious programs which infringe both children’s rights and church-state separation. Williams’ efforts will inspire other disgruntled parents to take action on their concerns about discriminatory religious instruction (RI).

Most states deliver a weekly session of RI, in these lessons children are segregated according to religion (or non-religion) and are often treated unfairly. In many schools, where RI was previously delivered by paid chaplains, the once paid position will only now be filled by the extremely committed evangelical missionaries.

RI volunteering used to be an intermittent local activity for aging, well-meaning mums, with time and God on their hands. Courtesy of John Howard’s NSCP, school RI became a national, government funded, permanent mission in public schools.

Thanks to chaplains, RI has also become more militant and more mercantile. This new God squad doesn’t volunteer and they don’t mind if the paper work refers to them as “counsellors” or “student welfare workers”.

Let’s be clear though. These religious employees are paid by Federal government funds channelled through religious providers – despite the High Court’s inability to see the obvious, and didn’t rule that the chaplaincy is “an office under the Commonwealth”.

A new (funding) mission

With their funding now uncertain, chaplaincy providers like Scripture Union and Access Ministries – who also deliver RI, will have to find another pathway for preaching. It is hard to imagine austere state budgets will stretch to cover them.

Scripture Union Queensland (SU) CEO Peter James speaks at a news conference in response to the High Court’s decision. AAP Image/John Pryke

But it is possible that individual schools may be tempted to allow these groups through the school gates in return for other services. Principals, given newly localised authority, might well see the value of indulgences such as a church-donated public address system, discounted church-supplied maintenance contractors, whole buildings for use by special groups or even church-trained teachers.

Of course, this would be in exchange for church access to school grounds, to distribute church pamphlets, to hang church signage on school gates and, in the words of Scripture Union, to encourage “obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ … through the Bible and prayer”.

Parents, be warned. Coming soon to your child’s backpack: biblical literacy and numeracy computer learning programs; invitations to “Jesus Camp”; Christian holiday care; sexist grooming programs (as an alternative to sport); and macho male bonding activities – to shore up the patriarchal and heterosexual order of the world.

All this, neatly packaged at a reasonable price, and benignly promoted as ways to teach “Christian Values” because, after all, public schools don’t teach values do they? Utter rubbish.

Falling behind

In an ostensibly “secular” system, the rise of chaplaincy is confusing. The continued existence of sectarian religious access, with the support of our federal legislators, is bizarre indeed.

Ron Williams' effort is an example of how an individual parent can defend their religious (and non-religious) freedoms – through the courts. His victory gives state Education Departments pause for thought, and the opportunity to reconsider what it means for schooling to be “secular”.

What happens next, at the federal, state and school level, will determine whether Australia can enter the 21st century regarding its approach to religion in public schools.

The world’s most developed nations deliver compulsory religions and ethics study in public schools from kindergarten through to senior school. They do not segregate children into religious ghettos. Sweden, Norway, Canada, England, Wales, Denmark, and parts of Germany and the United States enable general world religions and ethics education.

This model benefits students by enabling greater tolerance for cultural differences and more secure and cohesive societies. Sweden has been using this model for 50 years. Canada’s Supreme Court last year upheld its mandatory course against an appeal for an opt-out on religious grounds.

Australia lags dramatically behind in this area. Our 19th century RI segregates children on the basis of belief; has limited accountability; is discriminatory in practice through the continuation of Christian privileges; and is not supported by the majority of parents and education professionals.

Secular reform needed

This is a national problem and parents are understandably concerned. Education departments flout international human rights law by treating families differently on religious grounds.

Last month, a NSW parliamentary inquiry recommended the continuation of ethics classes as an alternative to RI. However, this option does not solve issues relating to segregation, unaccountability or unprofessional teaching.

In Victoria, a group of parents has claimed that state funding for Christian-only RI is discriminatory. In Queensland (where state teachers can still offer Bible lessons in school time), a Brisbane mother of three, Tricia Moore has asked for secular alternatives of comparable educational value.

Education Queensland and the Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens’ Associations have blocked Moore’s suggestions. Her school P&C Committee advised that if she didn’t like the RI policy, she should change schools.

This issue should not be passed down to individual schools – but dealt with at state policy level. The high court has so ruled.

Williams’ courageous act highlights the potential for change when a brave parent asks “what does secular education mean?” It also shines a spotlight on the disappointing lack of spine shown by our leading legislators who want to throw the High Court’s gift away - before it is even unwrapped.

Articles also by This Author

Sign in to Favourite

Join the conversation

71 Comments sorted by

  1. David Zyngier

    Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education at Monash University

    Catherine very well said. The High Court also raises the possibility of challenging if not all then some of the public federal funds being sent to religious and private schools.

    Of course Garrett as a "born again" would want the chaplaincy evangelism to continue. The battle against compulsory SRI is ramping up with a campaign by Education Academics to get the Council of Deans of Education to make a statement against SRI in public schools.

    report
    1. Ian Ashman

      Manager

      In reply to David Zyngier

      Any religious group given free access to indoctrinate children in state schools is an appalling breach of trust.

      Just take a look at the objectives of one such bizarre group - Scripture Union:

      "Working with the churches, Scripture Union aims

      - to make God’s Good News known to children, young people and families and
      - to encourage people of all ages to meet God daily through the Bible and prayer so that they may come to personal faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, grow in Christian maturity and become both committed church members and servants of a world in need".

      Superstitious claptrap.

      report
  2. Dan Smith

    Network Engineer

    Agree with the sentiments here entirely. Quite strongly worded though, so expect the usual adjectives to marshal themselves in responses (shrill, strident, militant, aggressive, zealous etc.) Although re this:

    "In Queensland (where state teachers can still offer Bible lessons in school time), a Brisbane mother of three, Tricia Moore has asked for secular alternatives of comparable educational value."

    I'm amused trying imagine what would be of "comparable educational value": Secular bigotry…

    Read more
    1. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Dan Smith

      You know, Dan, I was going to add to this debate but you've said everything I wanted to say.... +1

      report
    2. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dan Smith

      Dan, you missed out on religious horticulture, children could be taught the miraculous ways of growing and harvesting trees and crown of thorns, this in turn to be followed by a spot of carpentry concentrating on crosses and a jolly good crucifixion for the class dunce, for his own good of course…

      report
  3. Martin Spencer

    PhD student at University of Melbourne

    There are three very interesting and alarming elements to the history of this program:

    1. Our constitution does not provide us with a secular state.

    2. Our politicians are very keen to take full advantage of this.

    3. Very few people have a good understanding of what 'secularism' actually is. Every single school that has chosen a chaplain has violated the most basic rule of democracy. A majority vote cannot chose the religion for the whole community. Kids should be taught the value of secularism at primary school level. How can they be taught the most important lesson of the modern world when it is clear that the adults around them have no idea what that lesson is, and are eager to violate that rule within their own community.

    report
    1. ɹǝɯɐןq

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Martin Spencer

      >>A majority vote cannot chose the religion for the whole community.

      Exactly correct. Failing to protect minorities. Liberal democracy fail.

      "It has generally been argued by those who support liberal democracy or representative democracy that minority interests and individual liberties must be protected from the majority"

      "problem is that each voter has little influence and may therefore have a rational ignorance regarding political issues. This may allow special interest groups to gain subsidies and regulations beneficial to them but harmful to society."

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_democracy#Public_choice_theory

      report
    2. ɹǝɯɐןq

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to ɹǝɯɐןq

      I might add...

      "For historical reasons, many states are not culturally and ethnically homogeneous. There may be sharp ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural divisions. In fact, some groups may be actively hostile to each other. A democracy, which by definition allows mass participation in decision-making theoretically also allows the use of the political process against 'enemy' groups."

      Thus the inherently combative nature of religio-politics. Rallying troops, charming allies, and demonising apostates.

      report
  4. Blair Donaldson

    logged in via Facebook

    Back in my schooldays all the kids got a long famously, the only fly in the ointment was each Wednesday afternoon when the assorted Jesus freaks would turn up and we children would be separated into us, and them. I always wondered why we had to be segregated because of differences in the magical thinking of the “instructors".

    Far from religion dying a long hoped-for death, we have to thank the desperation of John Howard and the ACL for dragging classrooms back to the Stone Age and filling children's…

    Read more
  5. Cheryl Howard

    writer

    For some reason - the expectation of academic research and integrity perhaps - I was expecting better than this writing from The Conversation.
    Instead of skimming over the real issues and resorting to a lazy style of writing, we should be asking the important questions - the Chaplaincy program, which in my understanding before reading this very confused article, was not the same as the programs which teach religious education in schools, was instigated by the Howard government accompanied by some…

    Read more
    1. ɹǝɯɐןq

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Cheryl Howard

      >> the Chaplaincy program, which in my understanding before reading this very confused article, was not the same as the programs which teach religious education in schools

      Not the same government program. The same missionary program.

      In Victoria for example, ACCESS Ministries is the provider for both Chaplains and RE volunteers:
      http://www.accessministries.org.au/about/introduction

      >>Where is the separation between Church and State?

      Separation permits elected catholics. Separation means his church laws are binding on him, whereas our state laws are binding on all citizens. (cf. Martin's comment above).

      >>fill the abyss

      In the curriculum? Secular anything. The nonreligious are fine. Religious leaders spread fictions about our plight.

      report
    2. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Cheryl Howard

      @Cheryl, “where is the separation between church and state?"

      Precisely. The chaplaincy program runs counter to our Constitution. As for the “abyss" you mention, what abyss? I could think of many mind expanding, enlightening subjects that could be taught in place of preaching Bronze Age superstitions.

      Ethics for starters, philosophy, science, critical thinking, cultural studies etc. So much more rewarding than untestable claims about some (insert mythical entity of choice)

      I thought the main…

      Read more
    3. Cheryl Howard

      writer

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Well, I guess I didn't make it obvious that I was being ironic.
      I made a comment because I was concerned about the quality of the writing in the article.
      The separation of Church and State is a very important issue and therefore the article could have added weight to this cause if it had focussed on the facts.
      The High Court decision has not helped clarify what the real problem is: that faith-based religion should not be taught in state schools.
      I am an agnostic. I don't find it necessary to…

      Read more
    4. Hugh Wilson

      National Director ASL

      In reply to Cheryl Howard

      Cheryl, the case was not ever going to even touch on that issue.

      This is what it was about:

      http://www.hcourt.gov.au/cases/case-s307/2010

      "Plaintiff contends that the payment or disbursement by the Commonwealth of monies from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purposes of the National School Chaplaincy Program, and therefore the Darling Heights Funding Agreement, was not supported by an appropriation made by law, as required by s.83 of the Constitution."

      A simple case, not understood…

      Read more
    5. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Cheryl Howard

      Cheryl, with respect, I suspect the majority of commenters here are reasonably familiar with the concept of separation of church and state. The notion isn't exactly new.

      There are no problems with anybody who wants to practice their religion, the problem comes when the government of the day effectively institutionalise the practice in publicly funded schools.

      From my understanding of the High Court decision, the criticism wasn't that proselytising goes on in state funded schools and should…

      Read more
    6. Hugh Wilson

      National Director ASL

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Each to their own Blair, but the decision was great.

      And for reasons well beyond the case that brought the decision.

      Politicians will now have to put their hoped for legislation to some scrutiny, and maybe even a test.

      And not just for this issue.

      However, Howard's actions were a stunt, as was Beattie's when he funded Qld chaplains, and Gillard's when she grovelled before Jim Wallace a few days before coughing up with the $222m of our tax money.

      See her in action in our 'Shameful Sham' movie: http://secularpubliceducation.com/

      report
    7. Cheryl Howard

      writer

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Blair, re your understanding of the High Court decision: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/man-who-sued-to-ban-god-thrilled-with-win/story-fn3dxity-1226403474933
      "In 2010 he decided to challenge the program as unconstitutional and the full bench of the High Court heard his case in August last year.
      The court ruled in a 6-1 majority that the way the program has been funded is invalid under scope of executive power in section 61 of the constitution.
      As well as this argument, Mr…

      Read more
  6. Stephen Stuart

    president, Humanist Society of Victoria Inc.

    In addition to the secular argument there is the matter of harm reduction. The school chaplaincy question is clouded by the government appealing to the christian electorate on high moral principles while actually selling our children short. In the Victorian Education Dept the old psych & guidance branch has gone, in order to save the public money. But that is just false economy. Public education must be taken seriously in a multi-ethnic society, as (I believe) the Gonski report says, and a lot more money should be spent on it. The good that chaplains may happen to do would be done much better by secularly trained professional counsellors; the harm is unlikely to be reported and remedied.

    report
  7. Diana Taylor

    retired psychotherapist

    Since all religions have an ethical base, why not just teach ethics? As the Dalai Lama says: 'My religion is simple. It is about being kind to others.'

    report
    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Diana Taylor

      I think you might find on closer inspection that not all religions have an ethical basis, in fact some have doctrines that are highly un-ethical, classic example is the teaching from christ that your reward or punishment in the afterlife is based entriely on your belief in him......how is that ethical or moral? you could be a rapist and ask for forgiveness and your saved....or you could be a saint but not believe and you will burn in hell? - lets stop labelling religion as ethical, its immoral and dishonest to do so

      Completely agree with you that we should teach ethic classes though

      report
    2. Diana Taylor

      retired psychotherapist

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Sorry, I should have referred to the wise aspect of all religions. Christ also said 'love one another as I have loved you'.

      report
  8. David Zyngier

    Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education at Monash University

    On one hand, the court has essentially found that there isn't any constitutional issues with hiring groups like Scripture Union to perform counseling services, and all that the government has to do is just clean up the mechanism they use to write the checks. There doesn't seem to be any serious voice to question the obvious cynical and dishonest nature of what is happening. Worse there doesn't seem to be any professional group that cares to do "school counseling" professionally. Instead it is…

    Read more
    1. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to David Zyngier

      David

      You stole the my thoughts on this outcome. Not the outcome that we wanted to see: separation of church and state.

      Why are religions given funding to do what they already do? Proselytise?

      I have listened to a number of chaplains interviewed on radio claiming their jobs are to provide 'pastoral' care. I do not believe that working as a chaplain is no different to working as a youth cousellor. Otherwise, there'd be no issue at all, funding would be for professionals not religious workers. And I do not confuse 'chaplaincy' with 'religious instruction' - 'chaplaincy' has at its core a religious basis and, therefore, discriminates accordingly.

      Parents wanting their children to be indoctrinated in the religion of their choice have an abundance of churches, synagogues, mosques or (insert superstition of choice here).

      Conversely the opportunity to study ethics, philosophy and study of religions are so scarce as to be impotent.

      report
  9. Judy Cameron

    Administration person

    Please keep our public schools secular. If a school needs a counselor get a trained psychologist. If we need another subject to replace RI let it be ethics.

    report
    1. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Judy Cameron

      What I have now completed in the study of Ethics makes me determined to have Ethics introduced as a compulsory subject in both primary and secondary schools - not just as a non-compulsory volunteer-delivered alternative to Scripture in Years 5 and 6. Ethics and moral philosophy are essential tools to prepare young people for adult life in society. An understanding of all major world religions, taught impartially, is also very important.

      As for chaplains refraining from proselytising, how can they…

      Read more
    2. Michael Silverton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      Sandra I think you may find it is your browser rather than The Conversation that is doing the spell checking.

      report
  10. Peter Mangold

    Psychologist

    It surprises me that so little comment has been made about the lack of academic integrity of this article. Clearly the experience of being blinded by prejudice is not just the domain of the religious! One would hope that a commentator on this issue would avoid the obvious mistake of the uninformed – to confuse chaplaincy and “religious instruction”. Instead Byrne claims that “RI was previously delivered by paid chaplains, the once paid position will only now be filled by the extremely committed…

    Read more
  11. Joan Crow-Epps

    logged in via Facebook

    The idea that untrained religious proselytizers are qualified to be “counsellors” or “student welfare workers” is very alarming.

    My experience here in the United States is that religionists' prescriptions for the effects of domestic violence, child abuse, poverty, etc., is always 'lots more Jesus, and if the victim has enough faith and prays hard enough, their whole family will start going to an Evangelical church and a miraculous change will happen".

    Social workers receive extensive education, are highly trained, there are professional organizations which supervise their work, and they are worth every penny they cost. Trying to get the same results on the cheap from amateurs is insulting to them and likely to be highly damaging to the children who will receive substandard help or actually be damaged by the victim blaming of 'your problems continue because you don't have enough faith'.

    report
  12. Pip Boyd

    Secretary

    I think what most disturbs me about this article is that the author seems to have very little idea of what a chaplain actually does.

    In reality they are often called counsellors rather than religious educators because that's what they do more of. I find it difficult to believe the absolute ignorance and selfishness of adults who wish to remove often the only sympathetic ear a child has in their life in order to indoctrinate them to their own world views, regardless of loss of benefit to the child…

    Read more
    1. Joan Crow-Epps

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Pip Boyd

      You might want to do a little background reading on this issue -- these chaplains are not professional religious but instead amateurs, allowed unsupervised access to other people's children, required to have only a few hours training on making referrals, and from an organization focused on making converts. I'd suggest starting with the ombudsman's report which includes evidence "some Chaplains believe that school children with bad behaviour are possessed by demons."

      report
    2. Ian Ashman

      Manager

      In reply to Pip Boyd

      Pip, I think you are missing the point.

      Putting chaplains into schools who openly admit that their job is to 'spread the word of god' is not in a child's interest. In many instances it will be counterproductive as the religous individual, by their very beliefs, will be hamstrung as to the options they can present.

      I'm all for school counsellors in state schools but make them qualified people who do not have overriding religous motivations.

      report
    3. Hugh Wilson

      National Director ASL

      In reply to Joan Crow-Epps

      Joan, in EQ schools chaplains have no role in referals at all. That is the sole responsibility of the school principal. One of the problems with the Commonwealth imposing itself on a state area is that the outcomes are not consistent across the nation, and therefore cannot be measured correctly.

      For those who do want to see a parallel univurse in action (outside of Qld) they might want to dip into Katherine Stewarts excellent book 'The Good News Club', where they can read about what goes on in the USA, which just happens to be an echo of the situation here in Qld, but also increasingly in NSW, Vic, Tasmania, ACT and probably 'the rest' but in slightly different forms.

      report
    4. Diana Taylor

      retired psychotherapist

      In reply to Pip Boyd

      Schools do need counselors. Therefore there should be money for people trained and qualified for that role. A chaplain may or may not have such training. I would be delighted to see the money spent on chaplains being allocated to proper counselling services.If children have religious questions, they can access resources outside the school.

      report
    5. Pip Boyd

      Secretary

      In reply to Joan Crow-Epps

      Sorry Joan, did you mean the Ombudsman's report that is concerned only with the administrative side of chaplaincy and is clearly not an investigation into the merits of the program? The same one that sites "DEEWR has received and handled 277 complaints about the Program. Each
      complaint has been systematically investigated with outcomes recorded.
      Less than one third of the complaints relate directly to the behaviour of a chaplain"?

      I would actually be interested to read the section of the report…

      Read more
    6. Hugh Wilson

      National Director ASL

      In reply to Pip Boyd

      Pip, without wishing to say that this experience is an across-the-board one, since you are telling us to "go back to high school and see for yourself instead of ranting from your high horses! Talk to the kids and teenagers being affected by this decision instead of only yourselves."

      Well, I have done that exercise with my own children, and their friends. What did I find?

      Well, there was the chaplain who, so the students insisted, smuggled Bibles into China on a school trip, putting at risk…

      Read more
    7. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Hugh Wilson

      I was just reading the other Conversation about Australia becoming increasingly secular according to recent census data - people with no religion up from 18.7 to 22.3%. Non Christian religions, though a small minority, have increased due to migration. That leaves Christianity, though still in the majority, on a path of decline. Is this growing apostasy the reason why Christian groups are hanging on so grimly to opportunities to exert their influence on young impressionable minds?

      report
    8. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      The Christian lobby employ the same tactics as the tobacco industry, poison the mind with something that gives a temporary sense of well being and don't worry about the damage later, let society pay for that.

      report
    9. ɹǝɯɐןq

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      Why speculate that pollies greenlighting missionaries are motivated by barcharts?

      Charismatic rhetoric seems far more likely.

      report
    10. Ian Ashman

      Manager

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Blair, in some ways religion is more pernicious. Selling an 'afterlife' to people and justifying heinous acts here on earth for some sort of reward in heaven is a whole different level of obscenity.

      report
    11. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      "Someone should start an equivalent of "Godwin's Law" for the Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot triumvirate!"

      I second that.

      Why is a non-belief in deities immediately associated as believing in genocide, dictatorship and other psychopathic tendencies by religious people wishing to cast aspersions on atheists? Just being rhetorical.

      The rest of my post is general comment and not specifically to Susan.

      There is no misunderstanding of school chaplaincy programs - if there is (and I do believe this…

      Read more
    12. Ian Ashman

      Manager

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Maybe "Pell's Law" after a certain archbishop who seems keen to regurgitate this bulldust regularly.

      report
    13. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      What does WTF mean in this context?
      The uncouth and uneducated might know of one or two meanings.
      http://www.all-acronyms.com/WTF suggests others that the educated might be referring to.

      report
    14. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      I owe two apologies:

      The first to Sandra Kwa, to whom I referred as 'Susan' - I much admire your posts.

      The second goes to Philip Dowling upon whom my last post elicited a response to my exclamation of frustration 'WTF'. My entire post wasted due to the use of an expletive.

      report
    15. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to ɹǝɯɐןq

      ɹǝɯɐןq

      I agree that pollies are as likely to fall for "charismatic rhetoric" as anyone, I have demonstrated above that the use of emotive language stirs people more than reasoned argument.

      Meanwhile church and state continue their symbiotic embrace as the chaplaincy program will continue through support of the states:

      http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/political-news/chaplains-safe-despite-high-court-ruling-roxon-20120620-20n2d.html

      report
    16. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ian Ashman

      G'day Ian, there is no doubt that when it comes to hypocrisy, few do it better than zealous believers. You only need to look at the paedophile protecting Pell who seems more concerned about protecting church power than assisting authorities bring perpetrators to trial.

      When he and his kind are aided and abetted by politicians, like Ted Baillieu, who do their best to avoid asking awkward questions of the Catholic Church's protection of serial abusers thought to be responsible for up to 40 suicides, I'm even more ashamed of our so-called leaders.

      There are certainly whole different levels of obscenity but allowing serial abusers to get off virtually scot-free and giving the bastards tax-free status and open house to our state funded schools to damaged more young minds must be the ultimate in obscenity.

      report
    17. Joan Crow-Epps

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Hugh Wilson

      Have been following the conversation the last few days, and I've got to say, I am astonished that sincere and committed Christians can't see the the biggest problem with this program -- these 'chaplains' or 'teachers' are in the main enthusiastic amateurs, insufficiently trained, who are free to teach fringe and bizarre beliefs, and the effect of that upon the children and their parents is to make the Christian religion look ludicrous.

      http://www.news.com.au/national/creationists-hijack-lessons-and-teach-schoolkids-man-and-dinosaurs-walked-together/story-e6frfkvr-1225899497234

      Certainly an argument like 'teach conservative Christianity to all kiddies no matter what their parents' religion or STALIN/POL POT' is outright silly.

      report
    18. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Thanks Dianna, and your post was not wasted. It prompted me to re-read details of American atheist Madeline O'Hair's successful Supreme Court case in 1963 to ban compulsory school Bible readings - based on the First Amendment, and her subsequent failed case to do the same in outer space after the Apollo 8 crew publicly broadcast a Genesis reading in 1968 as they orbited the moon.The case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction!
      Many Americans reacted to O'Hair's antics with great indignation and…

      Read more
    19. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      I have always believed in the power of a well placed expletive and confess to enjoying my response to Mr Dowling's obsession with a single expression. Says it all really.

      Do we need people, who see bleeding virgin's eyes (here 'bleeding' is used as adjective not expletive, PD) the hand of a deity in toasty shapes, the confusing worship of virginity but banning of contraception and other Christian curios, advising school children on the many torments of teenage angst?

      The Flying Spaghetti Monster…

      Read more
    20. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      I believe schools can choose. The guidelines require that the principal consults with the "school community" when making the choice between chaplain and student welfare worker. The pay on offer for a minimum 400 hrs is $20,000. I don't know if this would seem low to a qualified professional. Duties include: 'Pastoral care', 'supporting students to explore their spirituality and providing guidance about spirituality' but 'not seeking to impose any beliefs or persuade an individual toward a particular set of beliefs'. I would call that a pretty line fine.
      http://www.deewr.gov.au/Schooling/NSCSWP/Documents/NSCSWP_Guidelines.pdf

      report
    21. Hugh Wilson

      National Director ASL

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      Sandra, the notion of a 'school community' is not what 'the reasonable person' might think it is. If you read the guidelines again, you will see that at the very least, which become the very most, a school principal has to consult the P&C president.

      That is a very small 'community' indeed.

      In fact, Garrett reduced the need to consult below that of the Howard era, so keen was he and Gillard to pander to the ACL and co.

      When we met with DEEWR, they had no idea what 'spirituality' actually meant, and there is no definition provided for it by DEEWR, nor for 'secular' either.

      Of course, it is the same as 'religion' when we have chaplains saying prayers, running Bible clubs and running 'healing rooms' in high schools.

      report
  13. Sandra Kwa

    Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

    Forgive me for I am about to be crude and unacademic, but I'm compelled to share here a funny photo I just saw this morning on my facebook feed of a prominent public sign saying: "Religion is like a penis. It's fine to have one. It's fine to be proud of it. But please don't whip it out in public and start waving it around." One commenter added: "And please don't ram it down our children's throats." Another added "But my religion is bigger than yours."

    Oh, sometimes you just gotta laugh!

    report
  14. Hugh Wilson

    National Director ASL

    A pretty fair round-up of the situation and it is clear from some of the comments that 'more reading needs to be done'.

    Peter Mangold says, "One would hope that a commentator on this issue would avoid the obvious mistake of the uninformed – to confuse chaplaincy and “religious instruction”." while he also raises 'academic integrity'.

    Perhaps Peter is unaware, has not done the required research maybe, that Mr. Williams comes from Qld, and the reason he took the action he did was because there…

    Read more
  15. Meg Thornton

    Dilletante

    My own solution for the whole complicated problem of "religious education" is quite simple: instead of making this into a one-hour-a-week instruction in religious dogma, make comparative religion and ethics into a curriculum subject, and use the RE slot to cover this content. Basically cover the various major religions in Australian society (get the overall content proportions from national census data, but I'd suggest Judaism, Catholic Christianity, Orthodox Christianity, Protestant Christianity…

    Read more
    1. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Meg Thornton

      @Meg, it is asinine to argue that atheism is a religion. Atheism is a lack of belief. Nothing more, nothing less.

      report
  16. Bruce Waddell

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Correct! This was an ideal time to draw a line under Howard's weaselism.

    report
  17. Philip Dowling

    IT teacher

    So, Catherine, exactly what values do public schools teach?
    I would suggest that you might be surprised at the values that students are actually by teachers in public schools.

    report
    1. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      Philip, I'd like to cross reference your Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot here as it is relevant to this discussion on the religious indoctrination of vulnerable children. You have trotted out a much-misused argument that atheism is responsible for the worst atrocities of the 20th century. The link below is one of many google offers to refute this claim, and makes the point that autocratic communism has much in common with theocratic religion - dogma, mind control, simplified b&w answers to complex issues, manipulation…

      Read more
    2. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      Sandra,
      I would point out that I merely asked a question.
      Your response was exactly what I expected to get.
      For your education, I would point out that communism and some versions of Christianity and other religions are both better characterised as closed systems.
      Anyhow I am glad that your child isn't going to scripture anymore and so can be indoctinated into the one true religion of CAGW and Gaia, with Al Gore as chief prophet and Tim Flannery as the Australian bishop, and chief proselytiser.

      report
    3. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      Philip, you asked me whether I had posters of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot in my room! Don't pretend now that it was a mere question - that is disingenuous!

      I hereby accuse you of invoking the newly proclaimed Pell's Law!
      =D

      report
    4. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      Sandra,
      I note that you are a postgraduate student at the esteemed CSU.
      If I had the temerity to ask which campus you attended, what would conclude from this question?
      Is it politically incorrect to refer to Wagga Wagga as Wagga was a question that occurred but I thought it might not be considered ethical to ask.

      report
    5. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      Philip, still lashing out because you can't bring yourself to admit you are justifying the unjustifiable?

      But thanks for your contribution, you help remind us all how religious indoctrination poisons the mind and inhibits reason and honesty.

      report
  18. Sandy Wilson

    Educator

    What gets me about the Chaplaincy issue is that the Chaplains are supplied by the Scripture Union, On their webpage under "About SUA" they state: Scripture Union aims to make God’s Good News known to children, young people and families and to encourage people of all ages to meet God daily through the Bible and prayer so that they may come to personal faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, grow in Christian maturity and become both committed church members and servants of a world in need.
    There is a…

    Read more
  19. Donna E

    ex-chaplain

    to be honest - I am a little terrified of the reaction I might get as a result of replying in this forum!

    I was the chaplain at a local high school for 2 years, after doing almost 20 years of high school teaching. I accepted a massive drop in pay, because I could see that students needed someone to talk to. Because of my integrity, I have never taken advantage of the position I was in by flouting the very strict guidelines given by DEEWR, as to the duties of a chaplain.

    My school had 1…

    Read more
    1. Donna E

      ex-chaplain

      In reply to Donna E

      ...and just quietly, whoever funded the research THIS article was written from - was ripped off!
      by the way - the man in QLD who brought the court case hasn't got his kids in a state school - he has home-schooled them for years!

      report
    2. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Donna E

      Donna, I'm quite prepared to believe your actions and intentions were honourable and above board however the point remains, any form of religious instruction in public schools should be eliminated unless or until you can guarantee equal time for every possible religion known to mankind.

      I'm not arguing about the workload of teachers or the 101 other things students could be involved in or be assisted by, I'm talking purely about state-sponsored propaganda in the name of a very specific religion…

      Read more
    3. Hugh Wilson

      National Director ASL

      In reply to Donna E

      Oh dear, talk about getting ripped off!

      Mr Williams, a friend of mine, a colleague, an honest man, has six children, five of whom are engaged in two state schools in Qld right now.

      Without that he would not have achieved 'standing' to take this case to the High Court. His standing was challenged, and it was determined, conclusively, that he was what he said he was, and was enttiled to take the case.

      Now that Furphy from Donna has been laid to rest, I just have to wonder about the rest of…

      Read more
    4. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Donna E

      Hi Donna, I am terrified that I feel like giving you a +1 for being the only chaplain brave enough to enter these waters! You say your successor is a trained juvenile welfare worker who happens to be a Christian. That would be fine if it was indeed the basis for recruitment. But under the NSCSWP, if a school chooses the chaplain option over the student welfare worker for whatever reason, then being a Christian would be a requisite, not just incidental. As it is Commonwealth funded position, I don't…

      Read more
    5. Hugh Wilson

      National Director ASL

      In reply to Sandra Kwa

      Sandra, as Mr. Walker, the SC in Mr. Williams' case pointed out in the High Court, the DEEWR guidelines were not-are not the least bit enforceable, so are totally meaningless when it comes to preventing chaplains from doing whatever they chose to do, which is to evangelise and proselytise, even in Qld schools where both activities are prohibited.

      A 'foot in the door' as one Sunshine Coast group calls it, or, one step closer to saving the unchurched sinners, otherwise known as, 'our children…

      Read more
    6. Sandra Kwa

      Grad Cert Ethics and Legal Studies, CSU

      In reply to Hugh Wilson

      Hugh, thanks for your replies - you have clearly done a lot of research. My kids are not yet in high school but I am watching the chaplaincy debate with interest hoping the NSCSWP will become NSSWP before then. My Australian Oxford defines chaplain as "a member of the clergy attached to a PRIVATE (my emphasis) chapel, institution, ship, regiment, etc." Surely then a public (or national) school chaplain is a contradiction in terms?

      I was not trying to grill Donna in any glib way, but am sincerely…

      Read more