Thursday, 19 June 2014

Free, Secular and Compulsory

The High Court of Australia has ruled that the Commonwealth's funding of religious chaplains in government schools is unconstitutional.
With people power funding behind him a Queensland farmer Mr Williams, won his challenge over the validity of that law.

"It always seemed totally inappropriate that a program could be put into public schools on no other basis than the largely unqualified people that were going in, with the only proviso being that they be religious," he said after today's ruling.

The main question examined in the case was whether the executive government had the power to fund such programs directly through local organisations.

The states backed Mr Williams in both of his High Court challenges over concerns the Commonwealth was using the mechanism to bypass them. the irony is that the commonwealth will probably get around the decision by funding the program by giving the states a bucket of money to do it.

The government will plough on and the Opposition vowed to work with the Abbott Government to ensure the chaplaincy program can continue.

"The Opposition stands ready to work with the Government to ensure that the Commonwealth can act and provide payments in such a way in the future," Labor frontbencher Brendan O'Connor said. The Rudd Government originally supported the Howard Government program to placate the seemingly influential Christian lobby which Howard and Costello openly converted.

Meanwhile, Greens leader Christine Milne says she is pleased with the ruling, saying the current arrangement made little sense given recent budget announcements.

"With the Abbott Government cutting $30 billion out of education, [injecting] $250 million into the school chaplains program, made no sense at all," she said. I couldn't agree more.

the AEU  is calling for funding to be redirected elsewhere in schools.

"What our students need are expert trained school counsellors, psychologists and welfare workers," he said.

In this year's budget the Federal Government scrapped funding for non-religious counsellors, who made up about a quarter of all participants under the program.

The previous Labor government allowed secular student welfare workers to be funded under the scheme, but the Coalition reversed the decision and will only pay for chaplains. For this reason alone the opposition should withdraw its support for this bizarre program which has no place in 'free, secular and compulsory' state schools.

Watch this space for further developments.

Refer to this story from The ABC about Kew Primary School stopping their Access Ministries Religious Education classes:

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