Australian rationalists want â€˜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.
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.