Stop the Government paying for religion with your taxes! End the National Schools Chaplaincy Program now!
The National Schools Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) was announced in October 2006 by the Howard government. It provided $90 million of Commonwealth funding over three years for school chaplains which was subsequently increased to $165
million. The Rudd government announced that it would honour these funding commitments and that the program would be reviewed and expanded to include secular counsellors, but only if a suitable religious chaplain could not be found by the schools. As it currently stands the Commonwealth is committed to funding religious chaplains in around 2600 schools across Australia.
This program should be opposed as direct government funding of religion bad public policy. Taxpayers' money spent in education should employ the best people available to help students, not just the religious.The preferencing of the religious, over the non-religious, for no reason other than their religiousness, is unacceptable in Government policy, particularly at a Commonwealth level. At the very least all schools should to given the choice employ non-religious counsellors or welfare workers under this program, not just those that cannot find a chaplain.
The NSCP breaches the spirit of the Australian Constitution. It undermines the separation of church and state. It is at odds with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Declaration on Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981) ("the Religion Declaration") which are incorporated into Australian Law through the operation of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986.
This web site is a resource for those who are opposed to this Program and wish to get information, learn more and take action. It brings together information from government, legal, media and other sources and contains commentary and analysis as well as suggestions for further action.
The NSCP's essential fault is its compulsory religiosity. As one commentator put it, "the assumption [is] that someone who isn't religious can't also be as caring and helpful. Why is the government making it compulsory to put a RELIGIOUS person in this position to get access to funding? The state and the church are supposed to be separated, so state schools will miss out on funding if they refuse to use a religious person as their counsellor/chaplain." The Age Spiritual counselling? Blog October 31, 2006 11:09 AM.
Section 116 of the Australian Constitution states that "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 Commonwealth." As legal commentator Stephen McLeish put it, "the impulse animating s 116 is the preservation of neutrality in the federal government's relations with religion so that full membership of a pluralistic community is not dependent on religious positions and divisions are not created along religious lines." The NSCP breaches that neutrality in several ways, primarily by funding a program that directly promotes religion and the religious over the non-religious. Further, the margin note of s116 in the Constitution states "Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion" which is what is happening.
Michelle Grattan in The Age similarly wrote "there are good reasons why — in principle and practice — the Government's chaplain initiative is a bad idea. It would be one thing if this was a wider counsellor program, within which people who were ministers, imams, or whatever would be eligible for the funding. But to say that $90 million over three years of taxpayers' money should go to a scheme to employ only those attached to a religion is discriminatory. Discriminatory against non-believers, for a start. And against government schools."
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www.stopthenscp.org is invited to be a guest on Radio National's Australia Talks (June 2008).
Listen to the program or read about it here.
Democrats Senator Lyn Alison criticises the use of Hill Song's "Shine" program in government schools and calls for the National School Chaplaincy Program to be dumped (June 2008).
Interested in this issue and want to know more? Australian National Secular Association (ANSA) Conference to be held at NSW Parliament 9 July 2008.
Chaplaincy program in rural Darwin suspended due to complaints and abuses "the program was introduced without proper consultation and communication with parents" (March 2008).
www.stopthenscp.org contributes an article to Online Opinion The Government Should Remain Neutral on Religion - Please leave comments (July 2007).
www.stopthenscp.org condemns the announcement of the first round of funding under the National Schools Chaplaincy Program.
Read our media release here.