The High Court decision on the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) will be a pyrrhic victory for those seeking freedom from religion.
The NSCP was introduced by the Howard Government as one of a number of carefully crafted actions to change the culture of Australia from its previous progressive and pluralist orientation, to a conservative and nationalistic one.
“There seems to be little doubt the Federal Government will find a way of continuing the funding of 2500 chaplains across the nation, but it should take this opporttunity to take stock of the Program” said Dr Meredith Doig, President of the Rationalist Socieyt of Australia.
“There has been no independent evaluation of this Program since its inception. Without this, young people remain at risk of inappropriate counselling by ill-equipped chaplains, chosen for their religious zeal.
“Funding of para churches like Scripture Union and ACCESS Ministries should also come under scrutiny. They are on record as seeking to recruit for Jesus using the God-given mission fields of our schools. Without a clearly understood definition of what constitutes proselytising, any prohibitions in the Program are toothless.
“As the census has just shown, Australia’s religious makeup is changing, with more diversity of religions but fewer identifying as religious overall.
“Evangelistic organisations like ACCESS Ministries and Scripture Union are fighting back, consistent with their mission to ‘evangelise the world’. But in a truly secular society, these sort of organisations should not be funded by the State.”