Wednesday, June 20, 2012

School Chaplaincy at Threat at the High Court of Australia

School Chaplain Andrea Eadie
and SU Qld CEO Peter James

The Federal Government's funding model for School Chaplains is not valid according to a ruling today from the High Court of Australia.

What does this mean?

Does this mean school chaplaincy in Australia is getting the axe? Does it mean chaplaincy in Australia is not something that can or should be funded by the Australian Government?

We haven't become THAT secular yet.

The High Court ruling means the funding agreement between SUQ (Scripture Union Queensland) and the Commonwealth Government of Australia needs to be reworked. In fact Labor politicians such as Nicola Roxon (Attorney-General) and Peter Garrett (Minister for School Education) came out today saying School Chaplaincy will continue in Australian schools.

Praise God.

You can find a summary of the High Court ruling here.

Some may say that freedom of religion was on trial; another step towards the secularisation of Australian culture. Dare I say, it resembles the push towards endorsing same-sex marriages, a debate that pops its head up into the media every couple of days.

Interestingly the High Court ruling said this:

The High Court unanimously dismissed [the] part of Mr Williams' challenge [about freedom of religion]  based on s 116 of the Constitution. Relevantly, s 116 provides that "no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth". Mr Williams contended that the definition of "school chaplain" in the  NSCP Guidelines imposed a religious test for that office, and that the position of a "school chaplain" was an "office ... under the Commonwealth". The High Court held that the school chaplain engaged by SUQ to provide services at the School did not hold office under the Commonwealth. The chaplain did not enter into any contractual or other arrangement with the Commonwealth.
That is, this was not a finding that said Government was in the wrong for working with a religious organisation! This case did NOT say, that Government cannot fund religious work. It DID say that the Government's funding agreement, was invalid (though not because it was faith based!) Ronald Williams possibly then didn't achieve all he had hoped for in his case against the Commonwealth.

Knowing Dave Tolputt (State Director -Scripture Union Victoria) very well, and currently working closely along Glen Simpkins (Director - Scripture Union Northern Territory), I can personally attest to the amazing, selfless work the guys at Scripture Union do; bringing hope into the lives of thousands of people across Australia.

Lord, let such great life changing ministry continue.

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