- NSL Ambassadors call for Senate Inquiry into public school Chaplains
- Morrison cuts ABC by $84m – gives new $247m to wasteful Chaplains
- $1 billion program could have funded the ABC for an entire year
NSL ambassador Jane Caro is calling on Bill Shorten to hold a Senate Inquiry into the contentious National School Chaplaincy Program in “secular” public schools, if he is elected PM on 18th May.
“He needs to explain the waste of taxpayer funds – increased further by Scott Morrison – to hire 3,000 evangelical Christian chaplains, paid for through all State education departments,” Ms Caro said.
Peak bodies in teaching, psychology, and a raft of secular, rationalist and humanist organisations have attempted to counter the Christian lobbies that influence federal MPs, and prop up a discredited scheme.
In February, Scott Morrison announced a further $247 million expansion of the program until 2022, meaning it has now cost taxpayers just on $1 billion, since its creation by John Howard in 2007.
Ms Caro said unqualified chaplains “simply drained public funds for no tangible benefit to students, with no regulatory oversight, and no professional evaluation.” She said it was time for the forensic scrutiny of a Senate Inquiry in the new Parliament.
“On two occasions the High Court ruled that funding of the NSCP to be unconstitutional – but the Federal Government ignored the rulings, twice, and ‘directly funded’ the States,” she said.
“We have video evidence that fundamentalist organisations, which hire chaplains, see access to public schools as an opportunity give “purpose and meaning” to children to “have a relationship with Jesus”.
“This contravenes federal regulations to stop the tendency of chaplains to proselytise,” Ms Caro said.
According to a 2011 Government discussion paper, 98 per cent of chaplains were Christian. In the 2016 census 30 per cent had ‘no religion’, and an Ipsos poll that same year showed 78 per cent of the population want the ‘separation of Church and State’.
“The chaplaincy program discriminates against all non-religious students who may feel uncomfortable being approached by Christian chaplains in school.”
“For LGBTI students the problem is exacerbated – confronted by chaplains steeped in Biblical doctrine, and without the specialist training required,” Ms Caro said.
NSL has anecdotal evidence that the majority of chaplains share Scott Morrison’s evangelical beliefs, and these Christian hire firms exploit their influence by drawing many students into extracurricular activities to promote a commitment to Jesus.
Ms Caro echoed the sentiments of Ron Williams, the Queenslander who won the two High Court cases against the Federal Government, and who called for a Senate Inquiry into the program in 2014.
“By 2022 the deceptive funding of NSCP – to circumvent two High Court rulings – will have cost taxpayers $1 Billion over 15 years; valuable resources which could have funded the ABC for an entire year,” she said.
NSL is calling on the incoming government to establish a Senate Inquiry to investigate the lack of transparency, accountably and effectiveness of the NSCP scheme.
The National Secular Lobby is Australia’s peak representative body for the ‘Separation of Church and State’ – and specifically to reduce the influence of religion in politics, education, the media and judiciary.
National Secular Lobby