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Byron Shire
April 11, 2021

School chaplains threaten vulnerable students: Greens

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NSW Greens MP, Dr John Kaye.
Chaplains a threat: NSW Greens MP, Dr John Kaye.

The Greens have called on the state government to immediately remove chaplains from NSW public schools after the High Court ruled the national program unconstitutional and removed all regulation.

According to Greens NSW MP John Kaye there is no evidence that the chaplains add any benefit to schools.

And he is worried that the stated policy of some groups providing chaplains to NSW schools, including describing all homosexual activity as sinful could harm vulnerable young people.

Dr Kaye said the June 19 High Court decision overturning the National Schools Chaplaincy program has created a six-month regulatory vacuum in NSW.

Chaplains have another next six months of funding as the Abbott government has stated it will not attempt to recover the funds it allocated for the entire 2014 school year.

The NSW government relied solely on the national guidelines, which included a code of conduct and a ban on both proselytising and ‘expressing views that are discriminatory or biased on the grounds of religious ideology, beliefs or sexuality’.

‘Parents send their children to public schools expecting a secular education and not to be preached at by a minister of religion, Dr Kaye said.

‘It is a breach of faith to have their children exposed to proselytising, made all the more galling because it is paid for by their taxes.

‘Even the religious establishment is divided over the chaplain issue.

‘The High Court decision now leaves NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli with the choice of wasting education funds to set up his own set of chaplaincy regulations or excluding them from NSW public schools.

‘Chaplains in NSW public schools now operate without guidelines, a code of conduct or a complaints procedure, all of which disappeared with the High Court decision.

‘Given the past performance and statements of one of the major providers of NSW chaplains, Genr8, this is an unacceptably dangerous position for public schools. Vulnerable students will be at risk of predatory proselytising by chaplains who have been let off the leash.

‘Complaints about chaplains will remain unanswered. This is an open invitation to aggressively proselytise students or denigrate young people with diverse sexualities.

‘Chaplains whose worst excesses have been held in check by the national guidelines will see the next six months as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to push their religion onto impressionable young people.

‘Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has a legislated duty to respect the wishes of parents to protect their children from evangelising chaplains.

‘This is the Minister’s opportunity to restore secular public education by closing down the loophole that let chaplains into NSW government schools,’ Dr Kaye said.


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5 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry to correct your article but the High Court decision ruled the federal funding of a lot of different programs unconstitutional including the roll out of the NDIS – not just the chaplin program. Also Dr Kaye is incorrect – there is documented anacdotal evidence of the benifits of chaplains/councilors from the principals of schools that have chaplains.

    • It is unacceptable for David to conjoin chaplains with counsellors. School counsellors are psychologists with teaching qualifications and teaching experience who are committed to the welfare of all students regardless of their ideological, religious or sexual orientation. Chaplains, on the other hand, have only minimal training, have a religious commitment and have to be endorsed by a church community. It beggars belief that they suspend the Gospel injunction of Christ “to go into all the world and preach the Gospel”!

  2. Public schools need more fully qualified school counsellors, not sky pilots.

    Despite the Anglican position on school chaplains, some spiritual types still don’t get it, do they? (SMH 25.6.14 ‘Anglicans: No chaplains, scripture in public schools’).

    Back in 1951 at Manly Primary School, my parents had to have the principal of the day issued with a ministerial to ensure just that for their son. No scripture, thank you.

    At Fort Street Boys High in 1957, there was a small group of around half a dozen year 7 student non-christians, 5 from other faiths and 1 atheist, allowed to be exempt from ‘scripture’ .

    Come 1961, 2 whole rooms had to be put aside for the year 11 ‘non-believers’, as Life of Brian would term us.

    So now the battle is ‘back-door proselytising’, school chaplains in public schools.

    Proselytising re-wrapped up in the guise of “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. Or in today’s parlance, “The logic of the program is that providing social, emotional and spiritual support produces wellbeing outcomes”, as quoted from the National School Chaplaincy Association’s Peter James in today’s article.

    No, they cannot help themselves – “spiritual support”.

    Public schools need more fully qualified school counsellors, not sky pilots.

  3. So, not being teachers or counsellors, if they are not allowed express views that are ‘….biased on the grounds of religious ideology or beliefs….’ in short, talk about religion, what are they doing?

  4. Serge, you are so right! Chaplains I’ve met have expressed frustration about this very point. There is still “R.E.” in schools that are in agreement with religious instruction where a specified faith may be taught.

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