Australia’s School Chaplaincy program is facing a constitutional challenge in the High Court as a Toowoomba man opposes the Commonwealth funding of chaplains in state schools.
The Australian Secular Lobby and its supporters are actively supporting the challenge. “This is a small but committed minority who are ideologically opposed to this very effective program” said Tim Mander, CEO of Scripture Union (SU) QLD. ”They are spreading a lot of misinformation about School Chaplaincy. For example, they’re mixing it up with the Religious Education program in schools – which has nothing to do with School Chaplaincy.”
Ron Williams is arguing that the Federal government has no power under the constitution to fund school chaplains, and that the guidelines for School Chaplaincy impose a religious test on employing “an officer of the Commonwealth”.
SU QLD is one of four defendants, the other three being the Commonwealth and two Federal Departments. The High Court has agreed to hear the case and has set down 10-12 May for the hearing. Importantly, the case says nothing about chaplains’ access in schools. It concerns only whether the Commonwealth may fund school chaplaincy under the terms of the current guidelines.
Tim Mander says SU QLD and many other stakeholders and supporters will fight this High Court challenge vigorously over the coming months. “If this High Court challenge is successful, a large proportion of kids’ support in schools could disappear,” he says.
Along with other members of school support teams, school chaplains help students to feel a sense of belonging in the school and help students deal with personal issues such as self-image, personal crises, loneliness, grief and loss.
Here are some actions School Chaplaincy supporters can take to show their support:
1. National Prayer Day for School Chaplaincy SU QLD believes that the response to the High Court challenge must be bathed in prayer. To that end they are inviting churches to pray specifically for the future of School Chaplaincy on Sunday May 1. Churches wanting to participate can email firstname.lastname@example.org There are a number of resources available to help congregations participate.
2. Support School Chaplaincy Website
To help provide accurate information about the High Court challenge and the benefits of the School Chaplaincy program, this website will help: http://www.supportschoolchaplains.com.au/
3. Please tell others about this website. It will help dispel the myths that are being disseminated by those opposed to School Chaplaincy.
3. Put your name behind your heart
So far 12,069 people have signed the online petition at http://saveourchaplains.com.au/ to voice their support. Your invited to add your name.
4. Fighting Fund SU QLD is committed to putting the best legal case forward to the High Court to save the Commonwealth funding of School Chaplaincy. But to do this will be costly. To help cover these costs, a Fighting Fund has been set up which can be accessed via http://www.supportschoolchaplains.com.au/ Please encourage friends and colleagues to go online and donate to this fund.
Australia’s Constitution says “humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God”. Our Constitution confirms our nation as a nation under God. It is for us to defend it and proclaim it. Thank you for your continuing support for the truth and The Canberra Declaration.