The Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) notes that in a Sunday Times article last weekend, Andrew Hastie tried to justify the ideo-religious witch-hunt into the Safe Schools Program in the following terms:

"We opposed it because of the controversial and inappropriate sexual content directed at young children. But we ultimately opposed it because the Federally-funded program was implemented without parental consent. The Safer Schools program represents big government reaching into family life, undermining the fundamental role of parents as the primary educators of their children." [our emphasis]

If that is the ultimate criteria Mr Hastie, then why aren't you and your fellow Christian warriors calling for review of a much bigger Federally-funded program that was also implemented without parental consent – the National School Chaplaincy Program (NCSP)? Consider the facts:

  • John Howard's NCSP announcement in 2006 did not indicate any advance parental consultation regarding it, simply saying "The choice of chaplaincy services, including the religious affiliation and denomination, is entirely a decision for the school community, including teachers and parents." – exactly like Safe Schools, which is entirely "opt-in";
  • The NCSP is Federally-funded – exactly like Safe Schools. Except to a much greater extent, with Safe Schools being under review over expenditure of $8 million over four years, but not the NCSP, which is in receipt of a massive $240 million over a similar period;
  • There have been numerous complaints about "indoctrination" under the NCSP, which don't appear to have triggered a government review – so why one against Safe Schools, with far fewer complaints?;
  • If gender, sexuality and anti-bullying are subjects for parental education only, then surely religion is as well? Religiously based chaplaincy and religious instruction in schools is, by your own criteria, a greater undermining of "the fundamental role of parents as the primary educators of their children", than Safe Schools;
  • Schools have an ethical and legal responsibility to make their learning environments safe, inclusive and free of bullying. The 500 schools who opted-in have overwhelmingly reported that this program successful helps to achieve this. By contrast, schools do not have a similar responsibility to provide for religious indoctrination.

AFA President Michael Boyd commented:

"Mr Hastie, you and Messrs Bernardi, Christensen, Nikolic et al have tried to 'manufacture' criteria to justify your ideo-religious pursuit of the Safe Schools program. Will you now consistently and evenhandedly apply your own criteria to other Federally-funded programs, principally the NCSP? Or will your favourite religions be blatantly privileged once again?"

The AFA calls on the government to put the "secular" back into "secular democracy", and order a rigorous review of the NCSP in accordance with its own self-declared criteria.

Michael Boyd

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

Phone: (02) 8007 4503
Email: [email protected]

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