Local councils in Western Australia should stop directing ratepayers’ money toward funding religious chaplains in public schools, the Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) has told a number of mayors.
In letters to nine local governments, RSA president Meredith Doig (pictured) urged them to suspend their funding arrangements until the state government removes the religion-based discrimination in the chaplaincy roles.
As we previously reported, all job advertisements for pastoral carers in public schools are being outsourced to Christian service providers who specifically advertise for Christian chaplains to fill the positions.
Western Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner John Byrne has agreed with the RSA that this practice appeared to be “prima facie religious conviction discrimination”.
A recent article in the Perth media revealed that some local councils were donating up to $12,500 a year to Christian-based organisation YouthCare to support its pastoral care activities in public schools.
Earlier this year, the McGowan government made an election commitment of $21.8 million in funding for the chaplaincy service over the next three years – on top of the millions of dollars provided in federal funding for the state as part of the National School Chaplaincy Program.
As a result, Western Australia taxpayers are funding religious-based discrimination in public schools at multiple levels – through their taxes at the federal and state levels, and through their rates to their local councils.
Dr Doig told the mayors that the funding of religious-based discrimination against non-Christians and non-religious citizens was contrary to the best interests of an inclusive community and to the secular intent of public schools.
She suggested the funding arrangements be suspended until the state government removed the discrimination from its policy documents.
“We ask that you notify the public schools in your City that you will suspend discriminatory faith-based chaplaincy funding until the Department of Education removes the word ‘faith’ from their 2021 Chaplaincy Buyers Guide for WA Public Schools and its online policy of ‘Chaplain requirements and qualifications’,” she said.
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Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman