Education, yes! Religious indoctrination, NO!
MEET Ken Wyatt, MP. He represents Hasluck in Australia, a constituency that covers eastern portions of the Perth metropolitan area – and right now Wyatt is beside himself with glee that the Australian Coalition Government’s first budget earmarks funding over five years to continue a costly and gratuitous chaplaincy scheme originally put into place by former PM John Howard, and insanely continued by the Gillard administration.
In praising an increase in education spending, Wyatt said the Abbott Government has kept its election commitment to invest $243.8 million over four years to revitalise the School Chaplaincy Programme.
I am particularly pleased the Chaplaincy Programme has been returned to its original intent of funding school chaplains only. I encourage all schools in Hasluck to apply for funding which offers up to $20,000 per year to support a chaplain, and up to $24,000 per year in remote areas.
The “only” refers to the fact that, while Tony Abbott’s Government plans on spending more on religious indoctrination, it chaplaincy programme will remove the option schools have of appointing secular social workers, according to this Guardian report.
Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, confirmed he would axe an option put in place by the Labor government for schools to opt for non-religious student welfare worker as an alternative to a chaplain providing “pastoral care”.
The Australian Education Union – which has long argued funds for the chaplaincy programme should be redirected – described Pyne’s justification as
An extraordinary comment.
Said the Federal President, Angelo Gavrielatos:
So where does the Australian constitution say that the federal government is responsible for school chaplains.
The Coalition says the extension of the programme fulfils an election promise. Pyne insisted the chaplaincy programme was successful and popular in the community.
But the opposition education spokeswoman, Kate Ellis, questioned the government’s priorities given it would curb school funding increases from 2018 onwards, which she said would fail to keep pace with rising education costs.
Ellis said it was wrong for the government to direct funding only to chaplains who had:
A direct link to organised religion.
Chaplains in schools, I have always, maintained, have no part in any education programme. They are being paid, at best, to indoctrinate pupils; at worst to generate hostility towards people they disapprove of.
In an email widely being circulated by AllOut, calling on people to sign a petition against the chaplaincy programme, the equality organisation said:
Imagine you’re 16 and you’ve just realised you might be gay. You’re being bullied, so reach out to your school for help – they send you to a chaplain. He says that being gay is a disease and you need to be cured.
Sound outrageous? The Australian government just released the Federal Budget with $245 million to send chaplains from anti-gay religious groups into schools all over the country.
There’s still a chance to stop it – next week the opposition parties will decide if they should pass the budget in full, seek to amend it or block it entirely. If this secret religious agenda doesn’t make headlines, it could be forgotten and passed without debate.
But if thousands of us sign right now, we could make it a major priority for any politician who wants to make schools more (not less) safe.
This isn’t just about budget lines – this is about the lives of young people. Two out of every three lesbian, gay, bi or trans youths in Australia are bullied in school. Some are harassed by their teachers and forced to change schools – or even drop out.
These are the very people qualified social workers could be helping. But if the government gets their way, millions will be poured into keeping these young people from the help they desperately need.
The petition, which I urge you to sign, says:
Protect all young Australians, including lesbian, gay bi, and trans people. Don’t pass any form of the budget that contains funding for religious groups to take the place of qualified mental health professionals or social workers in schools.
In the latest email I received from AllOut, the organisation said:
Unbelievable. In the last 72 hours 125,238 of us have called on Tony Abbott and Australian politicians to keep an anti-gay religious agenda out of schools. And yesterday, the Government announced they’re going to amend the Budget!