The weekend newspaper in South Australia is The Sunday Mail and on 16th June it carried three items in reference to the provision of chaplains for State schools. The following are excerpts from these articles.

From Rachel Hancock – “Primary schools are fast turning to chaplains to fill a growing need for support services.
So popular have they become, the state school chaplaincy co-ordinator has called on the State Government to provide extra support to cope with demand.

Education Department figures show that there are more than 120 chaplains spread across 130 public schools in South Australia – up from 79 when they were first introduced into high schools in 1987. SA was the first state to employ chaplains in primary schools four years ago. Since then, more than 30 have turned to their church community for help.

Chaplaincy co-ordinator Haydn Lush, who piloted the primary school program, said that he continually fields calls. A further 17 schools are currently seeking chaplains. “The demand will continue to grow”, he said …Chaplains are “like a gift from the churches”, providing a pastoral resource and referral service. While they come from a religious background, their role ranges from discussing personal concerns with students, staff and parents, to grief and family breakdown counselling and helping with camps, excursions and clubs.

Paringa Park Primary School is the latest recruit. Principal Peter Verrier said he was currently advertising an honorarium position….

From Ina puts Faith in Classroom” – “The Largs Bay Primary School chaplain (Ina Mount) is relishing her role and has come to be a popular staff member at the western suburbs school…….Mrs Mount volunteers about 25 hours a week…..She visits 14 classrooms a week to tell stories and speak about spiritual values.”

This third article is headed “Positive Option” – “Chaplains are a positive influence in schools, says SA Principals Association president Leoni Trimper – but she does not see them replacing counsellors.

We have encouraged schools to look at chaplains as an option if they don’t have a school counsellor and are certainly supportive of their role in filling a gap”, she said. “Until we get more school counsellors there will always be that gap. It’s fairly evident with the requests for school counsellors and chaplains that schools have identified the social and emotional needs of students as a huge ‘priority’.

Education Minister Trish White says she highly regards the chaplain’s role within schools. “Chaplains are an important addition to schools, complementing the work of counsellors in helping develop confident, well-rounded individuals”, Ms White said.

The following is our Letter to the Editor –

That State Schools (Sunday Mail 16/06/02) find a need for professional counsellors is not surprising. The question is whether Christian chaplains are a desirable or acceptable alternative.

Australia is now a multicultural society. A group of Christians select and approve the chaplains who are obliged to believe in nearly fifty statements contained in the Nicene Creed. This creed was proposed and endorsed under the murderer Constantine in 325. Those who voted against it were banished.

‘Belief’ is an admission of ignorance. When something is known it is no longer a ‘belief’.

Every child, other than those indoctrinated as Christians, is automatically disadvantaged, if not excluded, from the service of a professional counsellor under this situation.

Consider the position if the service was provided exclusively by Muslim clerics or those from any other religious group. Why would Christians pay their chaplains up to $16,000 p.a. to gain exclusive access to our school children? The acceptable social values should be taught as an integral part of the curriculum, not the ‘spiritual values’ of a particular religious organisation.

It would be interesting to know how ‘spiritual’ is now defined, for science has revealed that no human being has an immortal spirit or ‘soul’ and thus this basic religious doctrine is negated.

The Education Department should not permit chaplaincy as a cheap alternative to the provision of school counsellors.

At the most impressionable period of their lives, our school children should not be exposed to exploitation by purveyors of false and supernatural concepts, for which there is a complete absence of concrete or scientific

Keith S Cornish, President, AFA

The AFA has always been concerned by this backroom entry of Christian influence into our State Schools and has made submissions to the Education Department against this imposition.

See also:

Submissions re Religious education in SA state schools
Religion in Secular Schools
School Chaplaincy
Nicene Creed

By Keith S Cornish