Media Release: Dangerous School Chaplains Scheme

Ian Robinson / 05 September 2010

5th September 2010

Intervention sought on `dangerous’ school chaplains scheme

The Rationalist Society of Australia [RSA] today called upon the Greens to overturn the major parties’ commitment of a further $222 million to a school chaplaincy program.

The program is a misuse of taxpayers money: it has been strongly criticised by Australia’s peak psychology body, the Australian Psychological Society [APS], and it is a further step in the dismantling of our non-religious state education system, the RSA argued.

RSA President Ian Robinson said: “Letting chaplains, who are largely untrained in counseling, loose among some of our most vulnerable young people is irresponsible and potentially harmful. Moreover, the ideal our founding fathers had of a clear separation between church and state, including a strong secular education system, is being eroded away.”

The successful Greens Senate candidate from Queensland, Larissa Waters, is reported as saying her party intends to move to spend the chaplain scheme money on more effective secular counsellors. “We look forward to the Greens pressing this in Parliament,” said Mr. Robinson.

The Australian Psychological Society has expressed dismay at the program, saying that:

  • There is clear evidence that school chaplains are engaging in duties for which they are not qualified;
  • There is clear evidence that church organisations and ministries are supporting school chaplains in their boundary violations;
  • The government is complicit in encouraging dangerous professional behaviour by funding school chaplains independently of other services carried out by professionals who are both qualified and registered.

The teachers’ organisation, the AEU, has also denounced the program.

The Rationalists have written to Education Minister Simon Crean pointing out that the organisations that supply school chaplains are explicit about their evangelistic mission in schools. Scripture Union International’s public policy says “We believe that our mandate is to bring children and young people into the life of established churches” and “We believe that, in the case of families that are not Christian, the evangelism of the whole family rather than of children in isolation is still our objective. However, if this cannot immediately be realised, we believe that God still calls us to evangelise children themselves.” Scripture Union boasts that “last year alone, over 2500 kids went on SU Queensland camps where many committed their lives to Jesus”.

Mr. Robinson said many parents feel betrayed because during the recent election campaign Prime Minister Julia Gillard reversed her earlier undertaking to keep religion out of schools and instead promised the $222 million for religious chaplains even before a review of the program is finished.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has pledged the same amount, but over four years instead of Labor’s three years.

For further comment or interviews please call Mr. Robinson on 03 5422 7097

All the more reason.