When will the Federal Government get the message?

Yesterday the High Court ruled for the second time on the issue of federally funded chaplains in Australian public schools. The decision handed down makes it clear that the provision of chaplains in public schools is not within the Federal Government's power and the National School Chaplaincy Program provides NO BENEFIT to students, as required by the constitution.

Despite the unanimous and unambiguous ruling from the High Court of Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, members of the Opposition, and other politicians continue to support this ill-conceived, misguided, discriminatory, divisive, and dangerous scheme.

Many Australians find the foundational premise of the National School Chaplaincy that only religious people are able to provide meaningful support to children deeply perplexing. The situation becomes even more bizarre as the scheme prohibits religious people from acting religious – a rule which is routinely breached by chaplains all over the country. As Professor Lawrence Krauss said on the ABC’s “Q and A” program (echoing freelance journalist/writer Chrys Stevenson) – “It’s like sending in clowns and telling them not to be funny”.

A recent survey conducted by the LGBT rights organisation “All Out” revealed some chaplains were telling gay students “that his bullies were right and that homosexuality is a degrading sin that sends people to hell” or “gays and lesbians were unnatural, indecent and perverse”. Such narrow, bigoted religious views have no place in modern Australia, let alone public educational institutions.

Further, the recent budget decision to “return the program to its original form” and exclude all non-religious people reveals, above all, that the true nature of the scheme is to proselytise and not to look after the welfare of students. If student welfare was paramount, the program would not consider the professed religious beliefs of the people being hired.

Why have successive governments spent (or committed to spend) nearly $750 million propping up out-dated religious views? Where are the politicians supporting the second largest “religious group” in Australia according to the last census – those with “no religion”?”

Let’s remember how wealthy church groups already are largely because they pay no tax on their huge incomes and property holdings – not to mention that they do everything in their power to skimp on their moral obligations to compensate those innocent victims who were abused as children.

If they want to proselytise, let them do it with their own vast resources not tax payers’ hard earned dollars. Parents who wish to religiously indoctrinate their students are still free to take them to the local church, mosque, synagogue, temple, or teepee.

Enough is enough!

This is a failed scheme, both legally and morally, and should be scrapped immediately. The Atheist Foundation of Australia calls on the Abbott government to abandon this divisive and unfair policy and put the money to better use.

Michael Boyd

Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
PO Box 1062
Lane Cove NSW 1595

Phone: (08) 8835 2269
Email: [email protected]

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