By Andrew Potts
The National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) is to face a High Court challenge.
Parent Ron Williams believes the NSCP breaches Section 116 of the Constitution which states, “the Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth”.
“This case isn’t about getting religion out of schools — it’s about whether the government should be providing funds for it,” Williams told Southern Star.
“For kids exploring their sexuality, these are the wrong people to be dealing with. In most cases, they’re not trained counsellors. In Queensland these people can even be involved in sex and relationship education, which I find outrageous.
“For a girl who’s fallen pregnant, what quality advice could these people give? A great outcome would be if money was redirected to professional people who know how to deal with gay and lesbian kids and the pregnant girls or whatever else it is.”
Since returning to Queensland in 2003, Williams said it had been difficult to keep his children away from religious instruction in state schools.
He said even before being exposed to chaplains he’d had problems, with schoolmates telling his children they were going to hell.
But when their school applied for a chaplain in 2008, Williams discovered gender-based programs like Hillsong Shine could be included, and chaplains would be involved in events like ANZAC Day. He decided to enrol his children in another state school.
At the new school, his four-year-old was exposed to Bible-themed lessons so he home-schooled her for a year through a distance program.
Williams’ children are back at school, but opting out of activities involving chaplains has meant sacrifices.
“Chaplains go on excursions and on school camps, so if you want your children to have no exposure to the chaplain, you’ve ‘volunteered’ for them not to go to the museum or the bush camp,” he said.
“At schools where chaplains coach sports, the only option is for your child to miss out on those particular sports. It’s not volunteering at all. You don’t volunteer to not do something.”
A 2009 study of NSCP found 40 percent of chaplains had spoken to students on an issue of sexuality over a two-week period.
Greens leader Senator Bob Brown has promised to replace the NSCP with a Schools’ Community Fund of $125 million a year for counsellors and community workers.
“The program would provide grants of up to $60,000 per year over three years for around 2000 schools, and allow flexibility for schools to decide their own needs,” Brown said.
Williams has set up a trust account for donations from people interested in supporting the High Court challenge.
info: Visit www.highcourtchallenge.com for more information or to donate.