Australian rationalists want ‘dangerous’ school chaplaincy programme scrapped

THE quote above appeared last year in the Australian Daily Telegraph in a scathing piece by Maralyn Parker in which she attacked the Rudd administration over its decision to commit a vast amount of cash to a national school chaplaincy programme.

The decision to plough millions into the programme followed a deeply-flawed, utterly dishonest study.

The Effectiveness of Christian Chaplaincy in Government Schools was commissioned by the National School Chaplaincy Association, an umbrella association for organisations such as the Scripture Union and GenR8 which supply chaplains to public schools and benefit directly from extra funding.

Parker pointed out:

The study horrifyingly reported Christian chaplains were helping with sex education and leading prayer meetings for teachers in public schools. Others were working as aides in classrooms and counselling suicidal children.

This is a terrible scenario given the Christian attitude towards sex and homosexuality. Adolescents questioning their own sexuality is a major cause of suicidal thoughts in young people. Teenage males are especially vulnerable to homophobic taunting and bullying.

Religious workers should not be allowed access to children in public schools to discuss sex or sexuality for any reason, in any situation, ever.

Suicidal adolescents need help from qualified psychologists and counsellors, not Christian chaplains.

Teachers with children who have behavioural problems, learning difficulties or disabilities should be supported in their classrooms by properly trained teacher aides, not Christian chaplains.

Today we learn that the Rationalist Society of Australia [RSA] has called upon the Greens to overturn the major parties’ multi-million dollar commitment to the programme.

It says:

The programme is a misuse of taxpayers money: it has been strongly criticised by Australia’s peak psychology body, the Australian Psychological Society [APS], and it is a further step in the dismantling of our non-religious state education system.

RSA President Ian Robinson added:

Letting chaplains, who are largely untrained in counselling, loose among some of our most vulnerable young people is irresponsible and potentially harmful. Moreover, the ideal our founding fathers had of a clear separation between church and state, including a strong secular education system, is being eroded away.

The successful Greens Senate candidate from Queensland, Larissa Waters, is reported as saying her party intends to move to spend the chaplain scheme money on more effective secular counsellors. Said Robinson

We look forward to the Greens pressing this in Parliament.

The Australian Psychological Society has expressed dismay at the programme, saying that:

  • There is clear evidence that school chaplains are engaging in duties for which they are not qualified;
  • There is clear evidence that church organisations and ministries are supporting school chaplains in their boundary violations;
  • The government is complicit in encouraging dangerous professional behaviour by funding school chaplains independently of other services carried out by professionals who are both qualified and registered.

The teachers’ organisation, the AEU, has also denounced the programme.

The Rationalists have written to Education Minister Simon Crean pointing out that the organisations that supply school chaplains are explicit about their evangelistic mission in schools. Scripture Union International’s public policy says:

We believe that our mandate is to bring children and young people into the life of established churches.


We believe that, in the case of families that are not Christian, the evangelism of the whole family rather than of children in isolation is still our objective. However, if this cannot immediately be realised, we believe that God still calls us to evangelise children themselves.

Scripture Union boasts that:

Last year alone, over 2,500 kids went on SU Queensland camps where many committed their lives to Jesus.

Robinson said many parents feel betrayed because during the recent election campaign Prime Minister Julia Gillard reversed her earlier undertaking to keep religion out of schools and instead promised $222 million for religious chaplains even before a review of the programme is finished.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has pledged the same amount, but over four years instead of Labour’s three years.

20 responses to “Australian rationalists want ‘dangerous’ school chaplaincy programme scrapped”

  1. Marcus says:

    Scripture Union boasts that: “Last year alone, over 2,500 kids went on SU Queensland camps where many committed their lives to Jesus.”

    Is it just me, or do the words ‘brainwashing’ and ‘indoctrination’ spring effortlessly to mind?

    For feck’s sake, what parent in their right mind would happily let their kids go off to one of these Hitler-youth-style camps?

    Having said which, a rational, seemingly non-religious mate of mine told me a week or two ago that his teenage daughter had gone away for a week to a christian camp in the Lake District somewhere. He had no idea what his daughter was being told or taught, or who was behind the whole thing. And he let her go because she kicked off at him saying that all her mates were going and it was ‘the thing to do this summer’.

    All he wanted was a quiet life, I guess. What he’ll end up with is a child he doesn’t recognise any more.

  2. Spirogyra says:

    The idea of abolishing public funding for school chaplains is monstrous. Without chaplains to teach them the facts, children would instead take their knowledge from godless scientists, and never learn the biblical truths that:
    the earth is flat, and is covered by a hemispherical dome to which the sun, moon and stars are attached;
    the universe is less than ten thousand years old;
    all species were created independently at the same time; humans coexisted with dinosaurs; DNA is the devil’s counterfeit of creation;
    all sex is evil, but God tolerates it for the sole purpose of reproducing the species;
    homosexuals and Palestinians, as well as all persons who wear clothing made of two different fibres, or eat lobster, or collect firewood on the Sabbath, are to be executed;
    Big Daddy is watching you.

  3. barriejohn says:

    You’re right, Marcus. When I was a young Christian, Summer Camp was the big thing. This was a golden opportunity to get kids away from the influence of their parents and other sane adults for ten days and put inexorable emotional pressure upon them to “accept Christ”. Most returned home, as you so rightly say, unrecognizable, and when it became obvious what had happened many were forbiddden from having any contact with the church aagin. I even knew of one family that moved away from Swindon to get their “promising” lad out of our clutches, but of course this was just seen as “The Devil” at work!

  4. Russell W says:

    Religious workers should not be allowed access to children under any circumstances.

    As a member of the RSA,the Greens appear to be our only hope,our atheist PM has betrayed secular principles for votes.I wish Oz had a proper Constitution that prevented this creeping(and creepy) religious influence in our education system. It’s demoralising that we still have to fight these battles in 2010.

  5. Carasek says:

    “Religious workers should not be allowed access to children in public schools to discuss sex or sexuality for any reason, in any situation, ever.”

    Have just read and re-read that quote. Isn’t it fantastic? And, when one thinks about it, the absolute minimum protection the State must provide to our kids from the crazies (not least Ratty’s acolytes).

    Our politicians cower in fear of neo-con traditionalists on the one hand and left-wing cultural apologists on the other and religion, no matter how dangerous, abusive, reckless and idiotic, wins out.

    Russell hit the nail on the head – this is a betrayal of principle by Gillard. However, I don’t think she ran on an atheist ticket as such, so is there a mandate for this policy? Given that the Mad Monk also promised much the same funding, there wasn’t really much choice.

    Oh dear. How depressing. Time to read the above quote again to cheer myself up.

  6. Daz says:

    “Is it just me, or do the words ‘brainwashing’ and ‘indoctrination’ spring effortlessly to mind?”

    The word that came to my mind was ‘grooming.’

  7. Pete H says:

    Regarding christian camps, try and get hold of a film called “Jesus Camp”. (It’s easily gettable if you are a torrent user)

    I am recommending it despite not having got the courage up to actually watch it myself yet. I feel certain that it is going to make me very angry.

  8. Har Davids says:

    Cheeky bastards at Scripture Union International: they have a mandate to push people into church and even God gave them a call to go ahead with the spreading of religious manure, and that stuff hasn’t grown anything good so far.

    Why are the politicians selling out the rights of children to religious organisations? Does anyone know?

  9. barriejohn says:

    Pete: A version of Jesus Camp was shown on Channel4 (I believe), and there is plenty of it on YouTube.

    BTW It was whilst watching that programme that many of us in the UK were first introduced to the steadfastly heterosexual Ted Haggard!

  10. Pete H says:


    Hahah, good old Ted. So arrogant and sure of himself in “Root of All Evil?” chucking Dawkins off his premises for “calling my children animals!”.

    He obviously didn’t read the fundie rule book page which says:

    “WARNING: He who loudly castigates, denounces and demonises the gay community is actually a repressed homosexual himself, so be careful what you say.”

    It must have come as quite a shock to him when he suddenly became gay.

  11. barriejohn says:

    Gotta post it again, Pete: it’s my favourite YouTube clip! “We’ve decided The Bible is The Word of God”! Oh, well, that settles it then!!

  12. Pete H says:

    Hahaha, what a tool. 😀

  13. barriejohn says:

    And what about all those gullible people who were screaming with laughter at him, Pete? I wonder just how stupid THEY are feeling now!

  14. Pete H says:

    I doubt they feel stupid – they probably bought all his bullshit excuses he came out with after being exposed.

  15. JohnMWhite says:

    Having been to a Catholic high school in the UK, I found the chaplaincy idea to be worse than useless in terms of providing comfort or counsel. The main reason they were there was to hear confessions, and fortunately our chaplain was a nice enough chap that he didn’t actually make me say what sins I had been up to in my teenage years (gee, I wonder), but instead would just say “whatever it is, I absolve you, etc.”. I shudder to think, though, of these Catholic schools across the world where teenage boys and girls are being cajoled into revealing their most intimate secrets to a sex-starved priest.

  16. barriejohn says:

    At least five out of the first sixteen of these idiotic new “free schools” are “faith schools”, but there are sure to be others lurking amongst them. Be very afraid!

  17. Daz says:


    I’m almost as worried about the business-sponsored schools. How long ’til we get biology lessons sponsored by homoeopathic ‘medicine’ companies…?

  18. Robert says:

    At least one man has decided to take action, good on you Ron Williams.

    He’s taking the Government to court, I’m glad to say I sent a donation.

  19. AbdelIrada says:

    I think Australia needs some provision comparable to the First Amendment in the United States. Government-operated schools should never make contractual arrangements of any kind with religious organizations; to do so suggests collusion and the establishment of a state-sanctioned religion.

  20. Luke says:

    I’ve chipped in to Ron’s too via paypal.