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Scrap school ‘chaplains’ in this May Budget

4-year funding is due to expire in May for the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) — but fundamentalist MPs want it renewed and expanded by 25 per cent!

By Brian Morris

Nothing more could be done — four years of federal funding had effectively been spent. Prime Minister Tony Abbott made sure of that in 2014 — he guaranteed payments of $240 million to each state and territory to keep the flawed National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) afloat until 2018.

Defying a second High Court verdict — that ruled federal funding of NSCP was invalid — the wily PM simply gifted the cash in the form of grants to each state, allowing them to fund school chaplains directly. Unsurprisingly, state governments weren’t squeamish about the continuing problems with NSCP — they just wanted the cash — and schools saw chaplains as a no-cost benefit; additional staff that couldn’t possibly harm students.

Looming in May is the federal budget, where the chaplaincy scheme is due to lapse. But conservative MPs are lobbying the Treasurer — himself a devout Christian — to breathe new life into NSCP, and expand the legion of 3,000 school chaplains by a further 25 per cent. The anachronistic scheme has already cost taxpayers $750 million and religious lobbyists want to make it a round one-billion.

Evidence from every child psychologist and education expert has been ignored at the end of each funding cycle. Explicitly they argue school chaplains do more harm than good. But the genuine interests of schoolchildren — especially LGBTI kids — are trammelled in the stampede by schools for more cash — and a desire by zealous politicians to further Christianise public education.

Professor David Zyngier specialises in educational research. He says there are enormous pressures on children today, and schools need access to psychology professionals to help in times of stress — they don’t need spiritual guidance from chaplains when schoolwork suffers due to social, emotional, or family circumstances. And there’s an endless list of education, psychology and youth organisations who point directly to the long-standing failings of the chaplaincy program.

All MPs need to rise above religion and politics at this May Budget and think about child welfare!

A rational parliament would simply allow NSCP to lapse. Either let it die a natural death or — alternatively — provide the necessary funds for properly trained youth professionals. Growing ranks of today’s kids have genuine emotional difficulties that manifest at school — they need support from qualified specialists with the requisite skills to assist.

What is most troubling is the power of many religious lobbies who see school chaplains as an essential band of “Christian soldiers”. State regulations bar them from proselytising in schools, but that is impossible to monitor. Almost all chaplains are recruited by evangelical churches in each state — with many stating clearly their “mission” is to make schoolchildren “disciples of Christ”.

Attracting kids to ‘out of school’ activities is a stated objective — sport, excursions, and camps. Scripture Union operates in Queensland schools and, like evangelical chaplain-providers in other states, it has a camping program. Their website boldly states; “every camp sets aside a time for faith discussions, where participants have a chance to explore the Christian faith …

Australia leads the western world in school religion. More than 40 per cent of children now attend private religious schools — for a secular country that figure raises concerns. We compound the problem by allowing the nation’s public schools to become entrenched recruiting grounds for fundamentalist churches.

Federal and state parliamentarians — those who subscribe to the principles of secular democracy — need to think more seriously about the NSCP scheme. It’s not a benign program helping kids — it’s run by evangelists and staffed by 3,000 largely unqualified chaplains with a religious agenda.

Ask any group of chaplains to answer “honestly” — is your mission to bring children to Jesus? Without doubt, most will say “yes”. Government schools are not recruitment camps for religion — and on that basis alone, NSCP is fatally flawed and needs to be scrapped. Let it lapse. Now.


Brian Morris is Media Director of the National Secular Lobby. He is a former journalist and managing director of The Publicity Agency. He is the author of ‘Sacred to Secular’. More information about Brian can be found on his website, Plain Reason.




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  1. babyjewels10

    I think we all know what will happen in May this year….

  2. ozibody

    Thank you for this interesting article Brian Morris.

    In my humble opinion, teaching / practicing Meditation could be worthy of serious consideration – and eventual adoption !

    No sectarian issues here ?

  3. Joseph Carli

    Dead right, Brian…as a “receiver” of the experience of corrupt Catholicism, I can back every thing you say.

  4. Zathras

    Using taxpayer funds to induct children into “the Guilt and Shame Industry” is simply State sanctioned child abuse.

    Although 51% of the population regard themselves as Christian (22% Catholic), despite misconceptions we do not have an “official national religion” or a requirement to fund recruitment into a particular sect to compensate for falling membership numbers.

    Otherwise should we also give pro-rata funding for a Madrasa or two or some Zen classes for the non-Christian 8.2% of the religious population?

    The money would be better spent on the victims of Institutionalised abuse.

  5. Pete Petrass

    The last thing any school needs is any of Tony Abbotts paedophile mates hanging around causing problems. Religion is a personal choice and schools do not need god botherers sneaking around trying to convert gullible children.

  6. Jaquix

    Our state schools are secular and this should not be renewed. But this is politics 2018. The Libs will probably just throw it in, knowing theyre going down the gurgler next year at the latest, and then if Labor objects, use it as a wedge against them. Total waste of money and for a bad purpose. The court got it right. No religion in schools.

  7. Freethinker

    Have been a victim of doing hard work in a Salesian of Don Bosco college I agree 100%with the article.

  8. Aortic

    I know what the answer will be with this conservative catholic cabal predominant in Parliament. If parents want their children indoctrinated with these fairy stories there are buildings available to send them to and mouthpieces generally with fancy hats robes and incense to light the way to whatever particular paradise their enlightened tomes say awaits them. The opium of the masses indeed.

  9. Aortic

    Seneca the Younger. ” Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false and by the rulers as useful.”

  10. Keitha Granville

    I am betting it will remain in place, hopefully not expanded but who knows.

    We have ample schools for parents to send their children to be educated in a faith, and most of these already attract ample public funding. We MUST continue to protest about this misuse of public money.

    Alternatively can I have my share sent to a Jedi school ?

  11. Nearly Normal Frederick

    Brian, good essay, but the usual dreadfully sane christian chaplain does not in any sense provide children with “spiritual guidance”.

  12. Matters Not

    Re faith based schooling:

    most of these already attract ample public funding.

    Sometimes it’s even more than that. Indeed we have instances where the private school receives more government funding that the equivalent public school.

    To get a picture of the chaos that has emerged all you need is a computer and an internet connection to log onto the My School website. Find your local public school and add together its combined Australian and state government recurrent funding per student. Then go to the Naplan section, find a Catholic school enrolling similar students and check their combined government funding. In a surprising number of cases around Australia it is almost as high, if not higher than the public school – the one which must be open to all students. Oh, then add the extra Catholic school fee income.

    Note well: In a surprising number of cases around Australia it is almost as high, if not higher than the public school.

    Perhaps I should add – it’s the ALP that’s promising this extra outrage. What’s with these politicians and their deals? Not a principle in sight. Just the odd Catholic Principal or two.

  13. stephengb2014

    The NSCP is a disgracefull example of Australia’s sheer studity. To claim that these religious people, will not proselytize is naive at best and wilfully negligent at worse.

    Abbott should be charged with a breach of our constitution s116, as indeed should anyone who supports this policy.

  14. Terry2

    Interesting statistic for you : there have been 1600 public submissions to the Banking Royal Commission which is sitting for twelve months. By contrast there have been well over 16,000 submissions to the Ruddock enquiry into religious freedoms which took submissions between 14 December 2017 and 14 February 2018 and reports to government by 31 March 2018 – one month to review over 16000 submissions.

    So far none of the submissions to the Ruddock Enquiry have been made public despite an undertaking to do so.

    It will, when these submissions are made public, be interesting to see how many are favouring the limiting of religious freedoms and things like public funding of school Chaplains and how many are in favour of extending those freedoms.

  15. Christine Farmer

    I always thought our state schools were supposed to be secular, not religious by the back door. What happened to guidance officers? How did they become chaplains? This programme should be discontinued ASAP. Teach comparative religions, or philosophy, but in a country where more and more people claim no religion on a census form to subsidise Christian chaplains seems unreasonable. Far too much money already goes to subsidising religion in so many ways..

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