Title

Gillard urged to cut school chaplain funding

Database

Electronic Media Monitoring Service 

Date

14-05-2011 08:12 AM

Source

ABC Canberra 666

Parl No.

 

Channel Name

ABC Canberra 666

Start

14-05-2011 08:12 AM

Abstract

 
End

14-05-2011 08:47 AM

Cover date

2011-05-14 08:12:21

Citation Id

335311

Enrichment

 
Reporter

EASTLEY, Tony

Speaker

WILLIAMS, George

EDWARDS, Michael, (journalist)

CARR, Sen Bob

URL

Open Item 

Parent Program URL
Text online

No

Media Deleted

False

System Id

emms/emms/335311

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Gillard urged to cut school chaplain funding -

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Gillard urged to cut school chaplain funding

Michael Edwards reported this story on Saturday, May 14, 2011 08:09:00

ELIZABETH JACKSON: A former NSW Labor premier has called on the Prime Minister to cancel funding
for the schools chaplaincy program.

A religious group which provides chaplains to Victorian schools has been accused of trying to
convert students during religious classes. The allegations have been denied but they've sparked a
debate about whether the Federal Government has a role in funding religious education.

The former New South Wales premier Bob Carr is a critic of the program. He says the Government
should have cut funding for the program in its budget.

Michael Edwards reports.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The former Labor premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr, is well known for his
interest in political and constitutional matters. And he's a firm believer in the principle of the
separation of church and state.

BOB CARR: I believe, as Thomas Jefferson did, in a wall of separation between church and state. I
don't think the churches should be funded by the Government, I know there are exceptions around the
place as a matter of practical concern, but I don't think we should be adding to the example of
activities run by churches funded by government.

And I don't think beyond scripture lessons, traditional scripture lessons, that you should have
chaplains moving around schools. I think it's impossible to limit the religious activities of
chaplains, to confine them to pure counselling, and to not have them stray into religious activity.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Bob Carr is talking about the national school chaplaincy program. It's a
federally-funded initiative for schools to provide chaplaincy and pastoral care services.

Controversy about the program has erupted due to allegations about one of the groups providing
instruction trying to convert school students.

Access Ministries provides chaplains and special religious instructors to Victorian schools. Its
chief executive has been recorded telling a group of evangelical Anglicans to make the most of the
school access to "go and make disciples".

Bob Carr says the Government should have cut the program in the recent budget.

BOB CARR: I would have thought that in the context of a budget that was taking the knife to
government programs, there would have been an opportunity to have said, "Look we've funded this
some time, it's quite a cost, there are other things we can do with the money and we're going to
revert to a position where religious activity is undertaken by churches at their own expense.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Access Ministries has denied it's trying to convert students.

Constitutional law expert George Williams says there are moves to have the chaplaincy program ruled
unconstitutional.

GEORGE WILLIAMS: A challenge has been mounted in the High Court, that will be heard later in the
year. The challenge is based on the idea that the breaches section of 116 of the Constitution that
the scheme establishes a religion in contravention of that provision and that also it amounts to
the Federal Government giving out money to a purpose which is not permissible under the
Constitution.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: What's the likelihood of success for this case?

GEORGE WILLIAMS: You'd have to say that it's going to be a tough road to win this case, so that's
because there has been cases in the past that looked at similar issues, in particular a case called
the 'Dog's Case' from some 30 years ago that found that it was permissible for the Commonwealth to
fund religious schools.

If that's the case, it may be also permissible to fund chaplains in state schools. That said, this
issue has not been finally determined, it's certainly an arguable position and we won't know the
result until the High Court hands down its judgement.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Constitutional lawyer George Williams ending that report from Michael Edwards.