Lots of Budget news to ponder, but this one caught my eye.
1000 extra chaplains to be dispatched into state schools | Adelaide Now.
A bold move in light of the current High Court challenge. I support school chaplaincy but predicted controversy when the Howard government, followed by the Rudd and Gillard governments, stepped in with their massive federal funding boosts. The positive influence of chaplains in a school community is demonstrable. Their role is not to teach religion or proselytise, but to provide ancillary support to students and staff as called upon. They most often work alongside other student services – counselors, guidance officers, psychologists – to provide the time and informal contact that falls outside the mandated scope of these services. As such, they continue to play significant roles in assisting students deal with anxiety, self-esteem, bullying, bereavement, drug dependency, suicide prevention and sexual abuse. Cross-referral commonly takes place within the student services team.
Nevertheless, the cry will grow louder over federal funding of a church-sponsored activity. The protest will be based on the ideal of separation of church and state and that the church has no role to play in a secular society. The counter-argument is that the church has always been part of society, secular or otherwise, and, through collaboration with the state, continues to play a vital role in the provision of a wide range of services across the health, welfare, education and corrective sectors.
Each side of the argument brings its anecdotal support. Those mounting the High Court challenge have a briefcase of stories of attempted proselytisation. Aberrations occur within any calling, and systems are in place to correct, admonish, and counsel those who stray beyond their contracted mandate.
The challenge will need to depend on legal arguments focused on interpretations of the Australian Constitution. In the meantime, it looks like 1000 extra chaplains will be playing their distinctive role in the schoolyard.
4 thoughts on “1000 extra chaplains to be dispatched into state schools | Adelaide Now”
If their role is not to preach, but to provide a general support/counselor role, why are these positions not open to anyone to apply for? At the very least, this is discrimination (for the applicants) based on religion. Under the scheme, a school can only hire a “secular pastoral care worker” after they have exhausted all possible attempts to find a religious authority to fill the role. If that is not discrimination, I don’t know what is.
Let’s be realistic; this is nothing more than state sponsored religion. It is an attempt to appease the conservative right who want kids to follow conservative values “because we told them to”, not because they made the decision to do so themselves. It is our tax dollars being used to actively promote religious viewpoints.
And while we are being honest, is a chaplain really going to be effective in a counselor role given the issues today’s youth are facing? If a teenager comes to their school chaplain for help because they are being bullied and teased for being gay, your average chaplain is just going to add to the abuse by telling the kid they are immoral and sinful.
As I said, federal funding would raise controversy!
I find motivations for supporters/non supporters of state sponsored school chaplaincy are rather mixed and cover the whole conservative/progressive agenda on both sides of the argument. I am unaware of incidents where gay kids have been admonished by a chaplain. I am aware of the occasions where students with sexual issues have been well supported and affirmed. The chaplains in the school for which my local council is responsible are well accredited and experienced in youth work and counselling, attending regular professional development, often in the company of their secular counterparts in student services, and have done specialised training in suicide prevention. By the way, not all chaplains are federally funded, and the council I’m referring to is funded voluntarily by local churches and community groups, as well as contributions from within the school community.
Anecdotal, I’m afraid, but we often argue from a mix of both the general principle and the particular applications.
Front page of the age today: http://m.theage.com.au/national/school-religion-classes-probed-20110512-1ekr9.html
Yep, saw this on this morning’s newsfeed and did a faceslap. If proved, I would consider this a breach of trust and would support the investigation and its outcome. The boundaries are very clear and no-one is served well if they are breached.