State school chaplaincy program challenged
Courtesy SU Qld

There was an article in the The Chronicle (Toowoomba), “Dad fights chaplaincy program” (Jim Campbell, 28 October 2010). Part of this article stated that a Toowoomba father of 6 has hired a Sydney barrister and his team to challenge the legality of the federal government funding the state school chaplaincy program.

Why is this man challenging the program? He was quoted as saying that it was “because he had expected his children to enjoy a public education in a secular state school”. This man claims, “It concerns all Australians, of all faiths and none, who support the secular wall of separation concept concerning church and state.”

In the “recent comments” section following this article, I posted this response:

Posted by Spencer from Hervey Bay, Queensland

09 November 2010 6:14 p.m.

We don’t seem to have too much of a problem with pastoral care and chaplaincy departments in public hospitals. The Queensland Govt’s statement is: “Most hospitals have a pastoral care team of representatives from various religious groups. They offer advice, guidance and support and will help anyone regardless of their beliefs. If you or your family would like to see a pastoral care worker please see a staff member and they will provide you with contact details”. And these are in state public hospitals.

But dare to place chaplains who implement pastoral care strategies, with federal funding, in state public schools and we get the kind of antagonism that I see in this thread.

Mr. Williams needs to be reminded that nobody is forced to accept the chaplaincy role of pastoral care and religious involvement on any school site. It is voluntary. Could you imagine any secular school teacher in, say, a science topic give other than the secularist perspective when there are other theories or options? But my children and I were forced to take a one-eyed, biased, secular perspective in the classroom in some of these classes.

I can read the anti-religionists in this thread opposing pastoral care and chaplaincy in public schools. But where are the secularists opposing biased secularism in some classrooms?

That would be asking too much.

There was this response to my letter:

Posted by lukerevolution from Gympie, Queensland

10 November 2010 11:01 p.m.

Spencer. What is “biased secularism”? What in school the curriculum is biased towards secularism. Would you prefer that school systems were less secular, say, if Catholic kids got extra marks in exams because an education department head is a Catholic so prefers to see Catholic kids do well?

I am not anti-religion, I am anti state enforced religion. The state is using public money to promote fundamentalist christianity to children. I do not want my tax money spent on that. The government should reduce taxation and, if people want that, they can spend their own money on that.

Just because that is my opinion theists say I am oppressing them. What about my religious freedom. I have an opinion on religion, I see it as childish nonsense, but the government prohibits me from saying this as a chaplain at a school because only new earth creationist theists are allowed to join the ranks of SU chaplains.

Your hospital analogy is flawed because hospital chaplains don’t attend and pray at compulsory assemblies at hospitals. Doctors don’t prescribe visits to the chaplains. Children are accompanied at hospitals by their parents. You say yourself that it is a pastoral care team, ie: not only fundamentalist chirstians (sic) who will explain that gay people are going to hell at the drop of a hat.

Our secular, liberal democracy requires the separation of church and state to function. This scheme dilutes our democracy.

When I attempted to respond to lukerevolution on 12th November 2010, The Chronicle had closed further comments on this article. The following is my response:

Lukerevolution, “biased secularism” is the kind of worldview that you espoused in your letter. It defines the one-eyed biased view of origins of life that I received when I studied biopsychology in a university doctoral class. I had the same experience when I studied physics at high school and uni.

You don’t want public money spent on “fundamentalist Christianity” and you say that you are anti state-enforced religion. Let’s get something straight. We have no enforced state religion in Australia. There is no enforced religion in the high school chaplaincy program. Permission is sought from parents.

In freedom of religion that is the government’s position in Australia, you have been allowed in your letter to create a straw man logical fallacy with your writing off Christianity as “childish nonsense”. We can’t have a reasoned discussion when you use this kind of fallacy.

You want the separation of church and state in Australia. If that happened here in Queensland, the community services sector would collapse if government funds were removed for counselling, medical support, aged care and other community care activities. Where would we be as a nation if the following church-based organisations withdrew from our community service sector and received no government funding? Uniting Care, Lifeline, Centacare, St. Vincent de Paul, Anglicare, Churches of Christ Care, Baptist Care, the Mater Hospitals, etc?

The hospital analogy is legitimate because, in this secular society, which you want to promote, pastoral care duties by Christian clergy and other church people are permitted and encouraged in secular, State hospitals.

Where is the evidence that only “new earth creationist theists” are allowed to be Scripture Union (SU) chaplains? I have read the “SU Statement of Beliefs & Christian Creeds” online and there is not one word about having to be a young earth creationist. Again, you create a straw man logical fallacy. There may be chaplains who are young earth creationists, but that is not a core belief of Scripture Union according to its statement of beliefs.

To apply to become a school chaplain, see HERE.


Copyright (c)  2010 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at Date: 19 December 2013.

“All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”

Edmund Burke