Budget backs chaplains
The Federal Budget has made the school chaplains program permanent.
$247 million has been provided over four years to continue the program, which places 3,000 religious chaplains in schools to provide “pastoral care”.
Close to 99 per cent of the chaplains hired under the scheme are members of the Christian faith.
The renewed program will have “an enhanced focus on addressing bullying in schools”, according to the Budget documents.
The Rationalist Society of Australia says the program “interferes with the right to religious freedom and involves religious discrimination in hiring decisions”.
Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe said: “We do not support the chaplains program”.
“Our schools need these funds to invest in programs such as school counsellors and student wellbeing programs in schools. We prefer to see that money invested in our schools more broadly.”
Education minister Simon Birmingham claims to have received “representations from many, many schools around the country, arguing in favour of the continuation of that program”.
But the Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools group says the government ignored their “many representations opposing the program and urging, at the very least, that the religious requirement be removed”.
Chaplains are not allowed to proselytise during their chaplaincy hours, but the lines are blurry.
Chaplains could skirt the rules by telling a personal story of embracing religion, inviting guests who encourage religion, or promoting materials and resources that contain overtly religious material.