Chaplaincy Challenge: Williams returns to the High Court

Yesterday (8 August 2013), Ron Williams and his crack legal team (Claude Bilinsky solicitor, Bret Walker SC and Gerald Ng) announced that a Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim had been issued out of the High Court of Australia between Ronald Williams (Plaintiff ) and the Commonwealth of Australia (First Defendant), the Minister for Education (Second Defendant) and Scripture Union Queensland (Third Defendant). The complaint centres upon continued Federal funding for the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program; funding that was ruled unconstitutional by the full bench of the High Court of Australia in 2012.

In 2011, I accompanied Ron, his legal team and his supporters to the High Court of Australia. Here, it was argued that Federal funding for the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program was unconstitutional.

In the months leading up to the case, I become its unofficial scribe; a role that evolved from being a close friend of Ron Williams, his colleague, Hugh Wilson and their joint endeavour, the Australian Secular Lobby.

On 3 August, 2011, I wrote a Pre-hearing Summary for ABC’s The Drum; an attempt to dispel some of the many myths and propaganda circulating in respect to the case.

In that article I explained that, despite attempts to dismiss him, Williams and his team were no hapless band of inept malcontents. I pointed out that Williams’ barrister, Bret Walker SC, was (and is):

“… one of Australia’s leading barristers. A former president of the Law Council of Australia and currently the director of the Australian Academy of Law, Walker is no legal lightweight.”

In this second case, as with the first, Walker will be instructed and assisted by Sydney law firm Horowitz and Bilinsky with partner, Claude Bilinsky, taking a close, personal interest in the proceedings.

In the lead-up to the 2011 challenge,  Williams was branded “the man who sued God”. It was assumed his case would centre upon Section 116, the clause in our constitution which deals with the relationship between religion and the state.

It is true, that Section 116 formed a part of the argument presented to the court, but it was never the central argument, nor was it ever assumed by Williams or his team to be the point which would win them the case.

We have stated this repeatedly, but the misconception that Williams ‘lost’ his case because the court would not consider the section of it relating to Section 116 persists.

The strength of the case was always in Williams’ argument that the Commonwealth and its officers (then, Penny Wong and Peter Garrett) had breached the constitution by entering into a contract with Scripture Union Queensland to fund the National School Chaplaincy Program.

Such funding, Williams claimed, was beyond the executive powers of the Federal government.

According to Williams, spending for the National School Chaplaincy Program – huge amounts approaching half a billion dollars – had been ‘hidden’ in the Education Budget and simply  ‘appropriated’ (rubber-stamped) as an ‘on-going expense’ without ever being formally approved by specific legislation.

According to Williams’ team, a proper reading of the Constitution suggests that a Bill should have been drafted, setting out the details of the proposed NSCP program and that Bill should have been scrutinised fully by both houses before funding was approved.

Once we went to Court, however, the case become curiouser and curiouser.

According to the Australian Constitution, state governments are allowed to ‘intervene’ in High Court Cases. In the case of Williams vs The Commonwealth and Others, all six states chose to intervene and, surprisingly (although all support chaplaincy) they largely intervened in favour of Williams’ argument.

The states have a vested interest in reining in the power of the Federal government. Increasingly, over the last twenty years or so, the Federal government has wrested more and more power from the states, gaining ever more control over areas which were once ‘state matters’. Williams provided the states with an opportunity to claw back some power. And, of course, in politics, power and money – particularly the power over the disbursement of taxpayers’ dollars – is everything.

Williams’ case was always strong. But, once the states’ legal teams got together they took the case in a direction which no-one had foreseen. Taking Williams’ position even further, the states, in an argument articulated by Queensland’s (then) solicitor-general, Walter Sofronoff, suggested that a long-standing assumption about Federal funding,  dating back to 1902, erroneously allowed the Federal government more power than the Constitution, technically, permits. Sofronoff argued that the High Court must recognise that error and rule accordingly.

As I wrote in an article for ABC’s Religion and Ethics portal, the “orthodox assumption” was that, as long as something falls within its Constitutional powers, the executive doesn’t have to seek legislative approval in order to spend; sufficient ratification being provided through the process of appropriation.

The states, however, were now suggesting that the power of the executive to act without legislation was far more narrowly confined to matters pertaining directly to the maintenance of the laws of the Commonwealth or the Constitution; this did not extend to funding school chaplaincy or a host of other programs beyond this remit.

I used the analogy of the executive powers of the Commonwealth being “corralled within a Constitutional ‘home paddock’, with the gate to the ‘big paddock’ of spending only able to be unlocked by legislation.

Extending the analogy, I suggested that:

“the lock can no longer be picked by clearing expenditure through appropriation” because “a ruling in Pape v the Commissioner of Taxation (2009) closed the loophole which allowed appropriation to be passed off as a kind of de facto legislation.”

As Justice Gummow stated during the High Court hearing:

“This is one of the structural problems. We do not have legislation. You simply have the executive producing these vast documents with somewhat loose expressions which have never been subject to legislative scrutiny and any attempt at legislative precision.”

It took nearly eleven months for the court to rule in Williams’ favour. I remember holding my hand against my mouth in stunned disbelief as ABC radio announced the court’s finding. We won!

But the victory was shortlived.

As I wrote (again on ABC’s Religion and Ethics portal), (then) attorney-general, Nicola Roxon vowed to find a way to allow the funding to continue.

Then, I thought the most likely strategy would be to provide tied funding to the states, but in retrospect, it now seems the Federal government had a contingency plan in place – a plan which the Australian Christian Lobby appeared to be in on given their nonchalant response to the High Court verdict.

On 26 June last year, the ALP government rushed through legislation aimed at circumventing the Williams’ ruling. Even shadow attorney-general, George Brandis (LNP) admitted it was a ‘bandaid solution’ and doubted it would satisfy what the High Court had stipulated. Nevertheless, even knowing the legislation was dodgy, the LNP supported it as did the Greens, to their eternal shame.

birdIn that act, the entire Australian parliament raised a single finger salute to the full bench of the High Court, then turned and bared their collective arses to the Australian taxpayers.

“We will not be accountable,” they said effectively. “We will not abide by a ruling of the High Court. Fuck the Constitution. Fuck the states.”

Williams and his legal team immediately began plans to defend their position and the High Court Ruling. It has taken until now to bring a new case together and issue the writ, but Williams is now on track to make Australian Constitutional history, twice.

Contrary to his public reputation as an ‘angry atheist’ Ron Williams is a twinkly-eyed delight of a man with a voice filled with energy, humour and humility. He is not a rich man. In many respects, except for his steely commitment to stand up for a secular education for his children, he is your ‘average Joe’. And the ‘average Joe’ needs our help.

Williams vs The Commonwealth and Others: The Sequel must not just be about Williams taking on the government. It is a chance for ‘we the people’ to tell the government that they were wrong in trying to weasle their way out of a High Court ruling. That, in doing so, (whether or not you agree with chaplains in schools), they have set a dangerous precedent which must be brought into check by the High Court.

Williams now has the standing to fight this case but he needs the moral and financial support of the public. He also needs the support of the media to explain his case and its importance to the public. Where are you responsible political journalists????

Please, visit the High Court Challenge website and, whether you can spare $500 or only $5, please consider donating (using the “Donate” button in the right hand side-bar). It’s your chance to become a part of making Australian constitutional history. Where else can you do that for the price of a lunch?

Williams deserves your support. Australians deserve Williams to win his case. And whichever party wins the 7 September election – Australia deserves better.

Chrys Stevenson

Note: Donations made to the Williams legal fund via the High Court Challenge Website are not tax deductible. If you wish to claim a deduction, the Secular Party of Australia notes that donations made to it and marked clearly HCC will be donated on to the Williams campaign.

 

39 thoughts on “Chaplaincy Challenge: Williams returns to the High Court

  1. Stuart MacLeod

    I think it is fantastic that Ron is challenging the Commonwealth again – why didn’t common sense from those in power prevail first time around. I’m only disappointed I don’t have the money to fund the entire venture, but will give what I can to such a worthy cause. I was extremely disappointed when the Greens supported the work-around but they now have a chance to show they do actually stand for something. I would however, love to see the ruling in the DOGS case challenged – not sure if that is even possible.

    Well done Ron.

    Reply
  2. Mish Singh

    Well done, indeed, to Ron & his team – and thanks (again) Chrys, for keeping everyone so well-informed, in your inimitable style🙂. I’ll certainly donate what I can to this cause, although like Stuart (above), I wish I just bankroll the entire thing!
    All the best for the current proceedings🙂 :3
    Mish Singh

    Reply
  3. Julie McNeill

    My husband and I feel like a ‘voice in the wilderness’ as many Blair voters support amateur religious ‘counselling’ our children, sweeping them off to Christian camps etc. Even the teachers like it because they’ve got another body to ask to do the photocopying etc. The only thing to do is not lay down and accept preachers in state schools by what Ron Williams and your good selves are doing.

    Reply
  4. Paul

    Sorry Chris, although you have put the point very well and although I support the concept of a secular education and think the chaplaincy program is proselytising by a back door and although I am probably an Atheist (certainly not a Theist) I am not a believer in States Rights.
    I know it is our history that we were a group of colonies that came together as a federation and in fact we are 6.5 separate countries, we should not be and I believe we should be one country. I have lived in NSW, QLD, SA and WA and have visited Victoria, Tas, NT, TI and Lord Howe Island. and I see myself as an Australian, not a NSWperson.
    So when the Australian Government says F##K the States I agree.
    I believe the States should be abolished and the arbitrary borders and divisions removed.
    I do think that the executive should have to seek legislative approval in order to spend. I don’t think that would be a problem as all parties support funding the chaplaincy program.
    I think Section 116 is the right way to fight the funding of the chaplaincy program and to fight the program itself. Trying to fight the funding on States Rights is just as ‘backdoor’ as the scheme itself. The scheme could run without funding, such is the zeal of the religious fundamentalists. Chaplaincy should be excluded from government schools, not just defunded.

    Reply
    1. Peter Bartley

      I agree with everything you said except one point. We have a federal system that though should be abolished. We are stuck with the state of things today and we must work within this frame work ( don’t expect change by time soon). The Hugh court had ruled against the s116 arguments. The HC interprets the section in a narrow sense. We must wait now for the court to change its view, probably through new members whom are of a more secular outlook. In the mean time any argument that may free our public schools of religion should be followed.

      Reply
      1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

        As best I understand it, the High Court is unlikely to change Section 116. I believe public pressure and a referendum would be required. I submit that the best time to look at changing Section 116 would be prior to Australia becoming a republic. Are we to become a republic with no church/state separation? Unfortunately, the Australian Republican Movement (heavily populated with Catholics) has shown no interest in this issue and whenever I have tried to discuss it they have become extremely hostile.

  5. Mark Elsby

    In another month I can give money to this cause. The high court should have rules against it in the first place. Now that a law has been made for this money, chaplaincy should be stopped. We should have a separation between church and state. This is clearly money allocated to a religious cause. Why people think that bible scripture is moral teaching is beyond me, have people read that immoral book?

    Reply
    1. abbienoiraude

      I have three times and it is fractious, disconnected, violent and misogynistic. I am sure you would get as many moral teachings ( more probably) by reading all of Shakespeare, or Aldous Huxley, or John Steinbeck.

      Reply
  6. Mark Elsby

    If you read the chaplaincy aims, before they hid their young earth creationist rubbish(dinosaurs living with humans) they are told to associate the school with a local church. This is back door missionary work to brain wash our young children. A similar thing is happening in the USA, getting children when they are young and unable to tell the difference between myth and reality. We have a catholic and another person going for PM. We do not need to push by the superstitious on to our kids. Believing in invisible sky wizards should be a private affair. Imagine if a mufti was allowed access to a public school system to push islamic scriptures. They are now trying to make any talk against islamics as racial when Islam is not a race. When you hear islamophobia be aware and on notice. Christians are similarly trying to infect our political system with the australian tea party.

    Reply
    1. Matthew

      Mark
      I believe you have emphasised the true motive behind this court challenge. It’s got nothing to do with constitutional powers or government funding, but its really about removing the chaplaincy program from schools- a program which is about supporting kids through challenging times. Atheism vs religion. I also find it curious why Ron Williams targets Scripture Union, when apparently there are potentially dozens of other govt programs receiving presumably larger funding than SU.

      I am a GP, and have seen the crap that some kids have to live through. i support any organisation whose aim it is to assist these kids. My understanding is that it is voluntary for kids to see the chaplains, and requires parental consent, so whats the problem?

      I hope I never live to see the day when religious organisations are excluded from helping the needy in society. Who will help then- the govt? Just because your kids don’t need to speak with a chaplain, doesn’t mean other kids don’t need to. Don’t deprive them of their opportunity and support.

      Out of curiosity, how many atheistic charities are there helping in Australia? I genuinely would like to know.

      Reply
      1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

        Ron Williams has never made any secret of the fact that he objects to the expenditure of nearly half a billion tax payers’ dollars on a religious program which undermines our secular school system and short-changes kids who need tertiary trained individuals without any particular religious agenda (although they may well be privately religious) to support them in schools.

        The new challenge certainly targets the constitutional powers for government funding, but it also focuses firmly on the NSCP – there is no secret about that. Nothing for ‘clever Christians’ to ‘uncover’.

        There is nothing ‘curious’ about why Scripture Union is targeted by Williams. Williams can only challenge on a matter on which he has ‘standing’. His kids attend a Queensland school and Scripture Union supplies the chaplain to that school. There is no conspiracy, no ‘singling out’ – its simply how the system works.

        As a ‘GP’ you’d think you’d be a little better informed about these matters.

        And really? You support *any* organisation which aims to assist kids? How about Scientologists? Would you support the government bringing them into schools to assist the kids with their e-meters? How about Islamic chaplains providing advice to kids from the perspective of the quran? How would you feel about the local coven of witches (and I guarantee, your locality will have one) rolling up at the school to teach the kids how to cast spells to help solve their problems? All good with you?

        *Any* help for kids isn’t what we should be aiming for. That’s like saying, “Hey, there are so many sick people these days, I’m in favour of anyone whose aim it is to cure cancer.”

        That’s the kind of attitude that gets us homeopaths treating people with bowel cancer!

        You wouldn’t want the government bypassing doctors and sending sick people to quacks, would you? Why do you think it’s OK to outsource our kids’ mental health needs to well-meaning but largely untrained people whose ‘work’ with kids has been branded as ‘dangerous’ by the Australian Psychology Society? If chaplains are doing such a great job, why is the program opposed by teachers unions, the peak body for the parents of state school students, and the APS?

        Chaplains are ubiquitous in the school ground. You can’t opt your child out of ‘seeing’ the chaplain unless you severely curtail your child’s school activities. Chaplains are on assembly, they coach sporting teams, they’re used as teacher aides, they roam the school grounds during lunch breaks, they escort excursions. Why should kids be penalised by having to be withdrawn from activities because their parents don’t want them exposed to a chaplain? In a multi-faith, multi-cultural society it is simply inappropriate to have this overwhelmingly Christian fundamentalist program in our supposedly secular schools. If parents want their kids to be exposed to religious thinking they can take them to church and send them to church schools.

        And let’s not even talk about the trojan horse Christian conversion programs they help bring into schools – Hillsong’s ‘Shine’ and ‘Strength’ come to mind. The aim of such programs, and indeed the chaplains in general, is to establish relationships with kids – particularly vulnerable ones – and encourage them to participate in church-based programs outside the school where there are no restrictions on religious evangelism. It is predatory behaviour by churches and smacks of the same techniques used by pedophiles – although, for clarity, I am NOT saying chaplains are pedophiles. I do, however, believe that they see vulnerable kids as ‘targets for conversion’. Even Evonne Paddison from Access Ministries has confirmed that their primary aim is to ‘make disciples’.

        If kids are living through crap, they have a right to properly trained support through their school – not some completely unresearched, poorly monitored, faux-counselling program dreamed up by crafty politicians to ‘buy’ the ‘Christian constituency’s’ vote.

        Williams isn’t trying to stop religious organisations helping the needy in society. In fact, we wish that religious organisations would spend more time helping the needy and a lot less time and money fighting voluntary euthanasia, same sex marriage and defending themselves in court against clerical abuse scandals.

        Please note that many of the big Christian charities work with a shit-load of government grants, tax breaks and assistance. Not too many of them are out there working for nothing!

        And as for non-religious charities – there are many secular charities, including the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, Amnesty International, Kiva, Oxfam, Rotary International, and the United Nations Children’s Fund which are not aligned with any religion or religious denomination. Further, there are some specifically atheist charities including Foundation Beyond Belief and the atheist group associated with Kiva which has, I believe, have lent out over $10 million to people in developing countries who need micro-loans.

        Some of the greatest modern philanthropists are atheists. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Ted Turner, for example.

        In Australia, how about the Fred Hollows Foundation? Fred was a committed atheist.

        Christians aren’t the only people who give to charity and run charities and shame on you for suggesting that.

        Next time you decide to wander in to my blog to pompously question Mr Williams, may I suggest you take a moment or two to get your facts straight, ‘Doctor’ Matthew.

  7. nickandrew

    I have to echo the sentiments expressed in some earlier comments. If this had been the “National School Astronomy Program”, would there have been a High Court challenge?

    Without diminishing any of the good work done to hold that a government should be accountable for the monies it spends, the High Court seems to think that if the government is allowed to spend money at all, it’s allowed to spend it on religious proselytisation in schools. That there’s no problem with the nature of the expenditure. I of course disagree.

    Now it may be that the High Court challenge is a necessary step towards getting rid of the chaplains, but there seems to be nothing to stop a willing government from supporting them in the first place. If funding arrangements are limited to the states, how long will it be until Queensland (say) legislates and funds a statewide chaplaincy program? I predict, given the speed with which the Federal government legislated to keep the dollars flowing to Scripture Union Queensland and Access Ministries, that any transfer of funding responsibility will be so quick as to be largely invisible to those organisations. And Can-Do Newman, with his massive majority in Queensland’s unicameral state Parliament, has the power to make it happen.

    Reply
  8. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

    A couple of important points.

    Williams has never suggested – not once – that he has the ability to *stop* school chaplaincy. If that were possible, of course, that is an action that would have been pursued. Williams consulted with some of the best legal minds in the country and explored a number of options. The best option and the one most likely to succeed was to challenge the Commonwealth on the constitutional legality of the funding. As it turned out, Williams advice was right. He won the case.

    If the government had accepted the High Court’s ruling, the decision would not have stopped the funding. But, and this is the important point, it would have meant that the hastily cobbled together NSCP would have to have been framed as a Bill, considered by a parliamentary committee, sent to both houses of the parliament, and probably sent back for reviews before the Bill was passed and the appropriate funding legislation approved. We may not have got rid of the program, but we might, at least have emerged with a better, less discriminatory program.

    When one of the justices looked at the guidelines for the NSCP he grumbled, “This would never have passed parliamentary scrutiny.” That, at least, should have been addressed by the Williams verdict.

    The other possible solution was for the Federal government (through legislation) to provide tied funding to the states. This would arguably have had the effect of decentralizing and weakening the program.

    Even if Williams had the power to stop funding altogether, school chaplaincy would continue as it did even before Rudd and Beattie conceived of state-funded chaplains in order to win an ALP seat in the Toowoomba Bible-belt.

    The best bet is that it will simply become all too hard and the consciousness raising which occurs as a result of two high profile cases will undermine support to the extent that a future government simply won’t see the benefit of throwing money at it.

    It is no good moaning that Williams’ action won’t stop chaplaincy. There is simply not a practical legal route to achieve that aim. Contesting on the basis of S.116 is pretty much dead in the water since the Defence of Government Schools case in 1981 and it would take someone with a great deal more money than Williams and a particularly novel argument to have that revisited.

    What Williams has done – and is doing – is what is possible. And consider how his action has already brought together a coalition of individuals and organisations who oppose chaplaincy. Consider how many more people have had their consciousness raised about the danger of chaplaincy and how it short-changes children who need professional, non-ideologically biased mental health support in schools. Williams has – and will continue to – push this issue into the forefront of the public discourse.

    Now, to the suggestion that one should not support this issue if one supports Federalism rather than state’s rights. I think this misses the point entirely. First, it was not Williams who made the states’ rights argument – it was the states. Second, if this is an argument that needs to be had, let’s have it openly – not through the Federal government surreptitiously mining away at state’s rights in a thousand subtle ways or, indeed, by the states hijacking a case in the High Court in order to win back some power.

    Democracy is not about a government defying a High Court ruling by rushing through dodgy legislation. That is not how a responsible and professional government works. And I’m not blaming just the ALP here – the LNP and the Greens were equally complicit!

    If the government was concerned about the High Court ruling in Williams, then the appropriate action was to abide by the ruling first, then look at how the balance of power might be restored. The proposed Local Government referendum (now shelved thanks to Rudd) is an example of how the Federal government can ask the people if they will approve changes to funding arrangements which are, currently, unconstitutional.

    Instead, what we had was a government which said, effectively, “Fuck the High Court, we’ll do what we like!” And the other parties just went along with it like sheep.

    I think, whether or not you support chaplains in schools, whether you support Federalism or states rights, you should have a long, hard think about what this kind of attitude, unchecked, means for our country and thank Ron Williams for having the guts to stand up and say, “Not on my watch, you don’t.”

    Reply
    1. nickandrew

      For the avoidance of doubt, I support the High Court challenge and encourage everybody to donate what you can to help Ron and his legal team see this through to the end.

      Reply
    2. Keith

      I don’t think you understand the separation of powers in the Westminster system. The High Court cannot tell an elected government what to do otherwise why have an election or elected representatives. Agreed the High Court administers Law but the Parliament establishes the will of the people, 2Cor 3:6.

      Reply
  9. Hugh Wilson

    Great overview and response to some ofthe sillier and ill informed comments Chrys. Still biking OS. H

    Reply
  10. Martin

    Thank god they waited till ol Justice Heydon was forced to retire.. The old goof was condescending and patronising in his judgement in Williams Mk I. Hopefully with that Howard era conservative gone, the bench can revisit 116. So sad Justice Kirby isn’t on board to kick the High Court into gear… I could never believe what the court did in 1982 with DOGS.. Murphy J, the only High Court judge to fully understand how s 116 came from the US, and what the USA has done with separation of Church and State.. Hopeful for round 2!

    Reply
  11. Pingback: Arkarbor

  12. Lee

    Chrys,

    You have once again done a masterful job of explaining the story. Thank you so very much. If only the mainstream media would give us what you do.

    It appears to be a convoluted and complicated case. I believe that Ron might get more support if more people were able to access a very short point by point explanation, something the mainstream media doesn’t seem skilled enough to, or just won’t, put forward. You have the knowledge, the clarity and the skills they and the rest of us lack.

    I believe most people need to “get it” in a paragraph or two or they won’t even begin to try to understand.

    How can we get your version out there, in the most succinct format possible?

    Cheers, gratefully,

    Lee

    Reply
    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      You’re right Lee, it is a very complex case. I am in discussion with Ron at the moment and developing an article which will hopefully explain the case simply and clearly. That’s the good news, the bad news is that easier said than done. Still, I had a very productive discussion with Ron this afternoon and I am inspired!

      I have also booked to attend a colloquium at the University of Southern Queensland which will examine the legal implications of the Williams HCC 1 decision. I’ll have my pen and notebook on hand and will be writing an article about that in October.

      Reply
  13. Siamize

    If this team is so concerned that the Fed is spending money illegally and that they need to give it to the State, but the States if given the money would spend it in the same way … the end result seems much the same – money flows to where it was destined in the first place just a different way.

    Secondly, why all the focus on Scripture Union and not all the other directly funded projects / organizations that are outside of the federal governments umbrella of legal responsibility. Based on the language associate with this page, it doesn’t seem like a very nice team and not one that I would like to influence my children.

    Reply
  14. Jonothan

    So Mr. Williams if you win the case well done to you Sir, However do you realise that lodging an appeal for this piece of legislation to be nullified will also be deprive students of the services provided by the legislation other than chaplaincy?

    You can not apply to the High Court then pick and choose what programs you wish to challenge under the provision, it will be addressed as a whole. So I would suggest (if you can live knowing the deprivation you have caused) that you make your intentions known being the devoted atheist you are, and express your prejudicial attitude towards christianity?

    Also, home schooling may be an option for you, as from memory we are still apart of the Commonwealth, therefore chaplaincy services aren’t likely to be quashed soon🙂

    Reply
  15. Sam

    The chaplaincy program is a voluntary program. Kids need parental permission to access the program. If you don’t want your child to speak to a chaplain or be involved in a program they run then you have the right as a parent to make that choice.
    Chaplains do an amazing job at a miniscule cost to the gov’t. These guys are in school communities preventing and supporting staff, kids and families thru tough times and providing more positive options. I’ve seen how much it costs to rehabilitate drug and alcohol abusers, keep kids in foster care, run community housing or jails….the more we can do to prevent people ending up in these places the better. There would be hundreds and thousands of people that have had life changing encounters thanks to the work of their school chaplains.
    I’m not sure about section 116 but I’m sure glad I grew up in a country with Christian heritage (even with all its imperfections). Maybe those that are keen to see the church removed from helping the govt need to go live in a country that has done that and they can report back on what life was like there?
    Do yourself a favour and give your money to a worthy cause like World Vision, Lifeline, St Vincents De Paul, Salvation Army, Relationships Australia or Mission Australia….all of which have been established with church or christian heritage.
    Don’t waste money on trying to quash a program that is doing immeasurably good at a miniscule cost🙂

    Reply
  16. Eve

    I would never support this challenge. Why raise a challenge against only chaplaincy…..this challenge will affect so many other programs. Chaplaincy is a awesome program that supports so many students, teachers and families….I should know because I have been a recipient of their support. I say we all support the chappies…. Go to the SU website and show your support

    Reply
  17. Stuart MacLeod

    Aren’t us humans an interesting bunch. Reading through the numerous responses to this story, it seems clear people do not bother reading through Chrys’s explanation about what the case is about and why it is important to challenge these things. Instead they have already made up their minds, based no doubt on the kind of information they already agreed with (believed in ?). This I believe is referred to as cognitive dissonance.

    Reply
  18. Justin

    I understand some of you are concerned about the legislative matters, that is fine and you have a right to take this to the High Court. For many I believe it all comes down to hatred for Christianity or religion in general. This post is for those.

    I wonder if you truly would like to live in a place with no Christian influence. Christians do amazing work in the community. Most of the largest charities in Australia are Christian. World Vision, The Salvation Army, Mission Australia, St Vincent the Paul, Compassion Australia. By trying to restrict Christianity you are hurting/limiting this nation. Certainly, these charities would not exist if it was not for the Christians who run them. I understand many simply do not want their children to be taught Christianity, I ask you to ask yourself again why you think this. Humans are not perfect, and sadly, some have done despicable acts while calling themselves Christian. However, Christ does not teach this. Please investigate into the essence of what being a Christian is, and the goodness it has brought to Australia.

    I will quote each charity’s mission:

    World Vision
    “In Jesus Christ the love, mercy and grace of God are made known to us and all people. From this overflowing abundance of God’s love we find our call to ministry.”

    The Salvation Army
    “Its ministry is motivated by love for God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in his name without discrimination.”

    Mission Australia
    “Inspired by Jesus Christ, Mission Australia exists to meet human need and to spread the knowledge of the love of God”

    St Vincent the Paul
    “organisation that aspires to live the gospel message by serving Christ in the poor with love, respect, justice, hope and joy, and by working to shape a more just and compassionate society.”

    Compassion Australia
    “Compassion exists as an advocate for children – to partner with, equip, and inspire the Church to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name.”

    Know our history. It is no coincidence that nations funded upon Christian values have thrived the most. Although throughout the past 20 years many of these are loosing their Christian affiliations and may no longer hold large Christian populations. These nations have been developing on Christian values for many generations, not just the past 20 years.

    Reply
    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      Justin wrote: “I understand some of you are concerned about the legislative matters, that is fine and you have a right to take this to the High Court.”

      Thank you Justin, for affirming Ron Williams right to hold the Commonwealth to account on an issue which the High Court of Australia has already ruled as unconstitutional. I expect that no-one, Christian, atheist, Buddhist, Jew or otherwise would advocate that our government be allowed to act unconstitutionally or that Australian citizens should not have a right to challenge the government in our highest court.

      Justin wrote: For many I believe it all comes down to hatred for Christianity or religion in general. This post is for those.

      No, Justin. It comes down to a respect for people of all religions and none. History has shown that the best way to accommodate religion (and lack of religion) in a multi-denominational, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic nation is to preserve the secularism of public institutions and to protect the concept of the separation of church and state. These principles were instituted by the founding fathers of America, not because of any hatred of religion, but in order to protect religious freedom, to avoid inter-denominational clashes, and, not only to protect the state from religion, but religion from the state. These are the principles you see advocated by Mr Williams and his supporters.

      Justin wrote: I wonder if you truly would like to live in a place with no Christian influence.

      Actually, Justin, three of the five countries ranked the happiest in the world are also ranked among the least religious. Religiosity does not equate with a livable or happy nation – in fact, the opposite seems to be true.
      As I will be arguing in a forthcoming book, the ‘influence’ of Christianity on Australian government, public institutions, education and social life is undeniable, but overrated by many. We were not founded as a ‘Christian’ nation, this country’s history also has very strong strands of atheism, secularism, humanism, socialism, communism and utilitarianism – none of which depend upon ‘Christian values’. We have not been led by particularly religiously motivated leaders, our art and culture are decidedly secular in nature, our national heroes and the traits lauded as part of our ‘national identity’ owe more to secularism, socialism and enlightenment values than to Christian values.

      Justin wrote: “Christians do amazing work in the community. Most of the largest charities in Australia are Christian. World Vision, The Salvation Army, Mission Australia, St Vincent the Paul, Compassion Australia.”

      While Doctors without Borders, the Red Cross, the Fred Hollows Foundation and many other are secular in nature. People are generous and charitable – it is not a trait exclusive to Christians. In fact, the atheist team on Kiva has provided millions of dollars in micro-loans to needy entrepreneurs in developing nations – exceeding the donations of the Christian lending team. Some of the world’s greatest philanthropists – Bill Gates, Dale Carnegie, Warren Buffet and Ted Turner (among others) – are atheists.

      Conversely, Christian charities are routinely involved in scandals involving the misuse of money, are often heavily subsidised by taxpayers (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, atheist and other) and are not unknown to be involved in scandals involving misappropriation of funds or improper practices.

      For example, in 2006, the Salvation Army was found to have misused $9 million of taxpayer-funded grants by wrongly reclassifying jobseekers as ‘highly disadvantaged’ in order to attract a higher service fee. In 2005, it was shown that Hillsong Emerge – a charitable arm of Hillsong church had not only misused and misappropriate over $1 million, it had exploited an Aboriginal organisation in order to do so.

      Justin wrote: “By trying to restrict Christianity you are hurting/limiting this nation.”

      Bullshit. The only ‘restrictions’ we seek to place on Christianity – or any other religion – is to ask its adherents not to inflict their particular religious beliefs on those of us who do not share them. By all means, if you’re a Christian woman, choose not to have an abortion. But do not inflict your religious views upon my body through political legislation. If your Christian ‘values’ require that you suffer the indignities of a ‘locked in’ disease or advanced dementia or uncontrollable gangrene or the ravages of end-stage cancer until you die ‘naturally’ that is entirely your choice. But do not use your political influence – and false and misleading propaganda – to restrict the rights of the 80 per cent of Australians (including the majority of Christians) who favour legislation allowing voluntary euthanasia.

      It is not atheists, Justin, who wish to restrict Christians but the reverse. You are the ones wanting to impose your religion upon the population to restrict the rights of women, homosexuals and the dying to name just a few.

      Charities – religious or secular – should operate under the same rules. This has nothing to do with the Williams’ High Court challenge against funding for the National School Chaplaincy program but, generally speaking, if any group wishes to set up as a charity and can show that its services are genuinely aimed at helping the poor and needy – and not primarily about advancing a particular religious ideology – then the vast majority of Australians, including non-theists, would support tax-deductibility. Unfortunately, Christian ‘charities’ are often Trojan-horse organisations designed not to operate in the best interests of their clients but in the interests of advancing a particular Christian ideological stance (e.g. anti-abortion) and for luring vulnerable people into religion. Not incidentally, these new recruits are then coerced into making financial contributions to the church. The congregation of Hillsong church was told on Sunday if they didn’t dig deep the were ‘robbing God’.

      Justin wrote: “Certainly, these charities would not exist if it was not for the Christians who run them.”

      Christian charities exist in large part because they attract government money and provide the churches behind them with a means of recruiting new members (and tithers). If secular groups were given the same tax/rate breaks as churches you’d see a lot more secular charities. It is, frankly, incredibly rude and not a little ignorant to suggest that without Christians charity would not exist.

      Justin wrote: “I understand many simply do not want their children to be taught Christianity, I ask you to ask yourself again why you think this. Humans are not perfect, and sadly, some have done despicable acts while calling themselves Christian. However, Christ does not teach this. Please investigate into the essence of what being a Christian is, and the goodness it has brought to Australia.”

      What? Like the stolen generation which involved Christian missions up to their armpits? Or Christian orphanages which treated children like slaves and turned a blind eye when the good Christian overseers (often clergy) abused them both physically and sexually? Or the Christian administrators who then worked their hardest to cover up the abuse, ensure victims received no apology nor compensation, and who watched on as many of the victims committed suicide? Oh yes, what goodness religion has brought to this nation!

      Most non-Christians actually have little issue with their children being taught ‘about’ Christianity. What we object to is the indoctrination into Christianity currently being practiced by evangelical Christians placed into our public school systems as a pork-barrelling sop to the religious right. This infestation of narrow-minded, legalistic, bigots is a canker sore on our secular, public education system and provides not one iota of value to our kids’ welfare or education – and there are no studies which show that they do. Consider the recent assessment of SRI in Victoria where it is being progressively phased out.

      “Joe Kelly has been principal of Cranbourne South Primary School for 15 years, and acknowledged that until two years ago he had been “blindly supporting” Access Ministries’ presence. That was until he took a closer look at the actual classes and curriculum.
      “It is not education,” Mr Kelly said. “It has no value whatsoever. It is rubbish – hollow and empty rhetoric … My school teachers are committed to teaching children, not indoctrinating them.”

      Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/primary-school-principals-shut-down-religious-education-classes-20140216-32ty8.html#ixzz2wrYirvJL

      Justin wrote: “Know our history. It is no coincidence that nations funded upon Christian values have thrived the most.”

      Justin, I have a first class honours degree in Australian history, literature, sociology and culture. I have also written on the history of atheism in Australia for Warren Bonnett’s (2010) “Australian Book of Atheism”. I’m pretty familiar with our history and I can assure you that while Australians have mostly been nominally Christian, the ‘nominally’ part is most important. It is not too great a stretch to say that most Australians – historically and now – live ‘as if’ they are atheists, although they may well claim a nominal connection to a Christian denomination.

      White settlement was not undertaken with any religious motive – the request of the First Fleet chaplain to say a blessing at the foundation ceremony of the new colony on 26 January 1788 was refused. His constant pleas to have a church built were denied. When he finally built one using his own funds, the convicts burned it down. Our founding fathers fought tooth and nail against both the Catholic and Anglican churches in order to establish Australia as a secular – not Christian – nation and to establish a secular education system. Our first prime minister was a spiritualist. Many of our PMs have been atheists or agnostics. Few have been practising Christians.

      As for countries which are thriving the most, I wonder whether the shocking financial situation of ultra-Christian America is compared with the booming economy of China, which would come out the best?

      Justin, you are repeating arguments which you’ve picked up somewhere and for which you clearly have no evidence or in-depth knowledge. Stating these things does not make them so. This is not a forum where you’re likely to get away with spouting bullshit. Don’t try it again.

      Reply
      1. Justin

        Hi Chyrs, thank you for replying to my comment. I can see you are very passionate about your beliefs. Please, as I see respect your believes, I expect you not to call mine “spouting bulls**”t” and other profanities. Can we have a discussion where everyone has an open mind and understands they can learn from each other? There is no need put down each other. I want to respectfully say many of your statements seem biased and you have misquoted me in several places.

        Chrys: Actually, Justin, three of the five countries ranked the happiest in the world are also ranked among the least religious. Religiosity does not equate with a livable or happy nation – in fact, the opposite seems to be true.

        I have seen multiple happy surveys and they are not consistent with each other. For example, compare the results of the Happy Plan Index against the Legatum Institute Prosperity Index; they are completely different. When it comes to inconsistencies like these, you are free to reference the survey which meets your argument. None the less, I am uncertain what your argument is. I never mentioned happiness and Christianity. What I can tell you is what Jesus said “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

        Chrys: As I will be arguing in a forthcoming book, the ‘influence’ of Christianity on Australian government, public institutions, education and social life is undeniable, but overrated by many. We were not founded as a ‘Christian’ nation, this country’s history also has very strong strands of atheism, secularism, humanism, socialism, communism and utilitarianism – none of which depend upon ‘Christian values’. We have not been led by particularly religiously motivated leaders, our art and culture are decidedly secular in nature, our national heroes and the traits lauded as part of our ‘national identity’ owe more to secularism, socialism and enlightenment values than to Christian values.

        Christianity has certainly been an important part of Australia, as well as the West. Christianity and the West have gone through time hand in hand. As you mention, there are many other factors which have influenced society, I absolutely agree with you. However, there is no need to undermine the great importance of Christianity as your statement does. Let me explain.

        What is a Christian nation? If you refer to Christianity being enforced on its people, then the answer is no. We are not a Christian nation. Everyone is free to follow their beliefs and most have chosen to follow Christianity. The Australian constitution creates a secular government, at the same time it mentions its reliance on God. Here is an excerpt: “Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth…”

        Strong strands in communism and atheism? You will have to tell me about it. The last census showed we have a small fraction of non-religious (not necessarily atheists), not long ago that fraction was much smaller. Our economic system is far from communist. While communism and atheism have influenced Australia, they are by no means strong strands. We can certainly agree socialism and utilitarianism have had a big impact.

        I don’t know what you mean by a “religiously motivated leader”. I can tell you that we don’t need to look far at all to see Christian leaders. We are under a Christian Queen. Our prime minster is a devout believer. The previous prime minister was a lay preacher in China. You really don’t need to look far to see the massive impact Christianity has had on our leaders.

        Chrys: While Doctors without Borders, the Red Cross, the Fred Hollows Foundation and many other are secular in nature. People are generous and charitable – it is not a trait exclusive to Christians. In fact, the atheist team on Kiva have provided millions of dollars in micro-loans to needy entrepreneurs in developing nations – exceeding the donations of the Christian lending team. Some of the world’s greatest philanthropists – Bill Gates, Dale Carnegie, Warren Buffet and Ted Turner (among others) are atheists.

        I believe you misquoted me, I never said generosity was a trait exclusive to Christians. I stated that the largest charities in Australia are Christian (except for the Red Cross, which you pointed out). Relatively smaller charities (but not worse than others) like Doctors without Borders and Fred Hollows Foundation are great charities too, I have heard great things about them and Fred Hollows’ story is amazing. My whole point was to show how deeply Australia’s biggest charities are rooted in the teachings of the Bible. I suspect there must be something special about the Bible which has over years inspired people to construct such large and deep impacting charities. There are hardly any secular charities of comparable size operating in Australia.

        Also, I want to inform you Bill Gates is not atheist, he is agnostic. The other half of his charity, his wife, is Catholic. Here are quotes from an interview with him last month. Don’t take my word on these quotes taken out of context. I suggest you Google it.

        “The moral systems of religion, I think, are super important. We’ve raised our kids in a religious way; they’ve gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in. I’ve been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that’s kind of a religious belief.”

        “I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don’t know.”

        “The mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there’s no scientific explanation of how it came about. To say that it was generated by random numbers, that does seem, you know, sort of an uncharitable view”

        What you mention about Christian charities and Churches being involved in fraud and abuse scandals is by all means very horrible and sad. My words cannot explain how terrible I feel for those who have been abused. Those who committed these crimes should see the full impact of the law, just as God would condone.

        I mentioned previously that it was important to see into the essence of Christianity. I can tell you nowhere in the Bible is this behaviour exalted, but the complete opposite. It is difficult to not judge Christianity based on the few who do so much wrong while calling themselves Christian, but The Bible warns us about these people.

        Chrys: It is not atheists, Justin, who wish to restrict Christians but the reverse. You are the ones wanting to impose your religion upon the population to restrict the rights of women, homosexuals and the dying to name just a few.

        Your paragraphs on abortion and euthanasia I believe belong in a different discussion. Christians are not out to restrict the rights of women, homosexuals and the dying. Christians are out to protect the lives of those in the womb who don’t have a voice, the building blocks of society which are marriage and family, and the sanctity of life. I told you what you already know. However, you chose to instead deliver a biased and harsh statement. You know Christians are not out to restrict the rights of women etc. I am yet to meet a Christian who’s believe is to restrict the rights of women. Rather, to protect the innocent in the womb.

        Yes, many Christian charities and churches want to share the love of God with others, and want people to get to know Christ. Why would you not want to share something that has brought so much joy into your life? After all, if the Christian message was not shared with others, then we would be left with no Christian churches or Christian charities helping out or community.

        Chrys: It is, frankly, incredibly rude and not a little ignorant to suggest that without Christians charity would not exist.

        Again, you have misquoted me. I did not say without Christians, charity would not exist. I said, and I quote, ..these charities [World Vision, Salvation Army etc] would not exist if it was not for the Christians who run them.

        Chrys: Most non-Christians actually have little issue with their children being taught ‘about’ Christianity. What we object to is the indoctrination into Christianity currently being practiced by evangelical Christians placed into our public school systems as a pork-barrelling sop to the religious right.

        A chaplain’s role is often much bigger than just spiritual. They can act as teacher aids, recess supervisors, sport coaches, disaster relieve helpers, etc. Their role is not to go up to kids and preach. With most of Australia being Christians, should we not have a chaplain at schools to provide spiritual support to those who need it?

        No, this is not about the religious right. In fact, Labour and Greens voted for reinstating the chaplaincy program in 2010.

        Chrys: “Joe Kelly has been principal of Cranbourne South Primary School for 15 years, and acknowledged that until two years ago he had been “blindly supporting” Access Ministries’ presence. That was until he took a closer look at the actual classes and curriculum. “It is not education,” Mr Kelly said. “It has no value whatsoever. It is rubbish – hollow and empty rhetoric … My school teachers are committed to teaching children, not indoctrinating them.”

        Joe Kelly has the right to run the school as he believes is best. Power to him. However, do not forget that statistically most public schools have chosen to allow chaplains into their schools.

        Chrys: As for countries which are thriving the most, I wonder whether the shocking financial situation of ultra-Christian America is compared with the booming economy of China, which would come out the best?

        If we look at the GDP of each country, yes China is looking to surpass America soon. Please understand what the economic difference is per capita (America = $50k, China = 6K). China is still highly undeveloped, they mainly have a very large workforce were on average each person earns very, very little. When this workforce is combined, it creates a big economy. You can be assured the “officially Atheist” nation of China is not a thriving country, but one with many people.

        Chrys: Justin, you are repeating arguments which you’ve picked up somewhere and for which you clearly have no evidence or in-depth knowledge. Stating these things does not make them so. This is not a forum where you’re likely to get away with spouting bullshit. Don’t try it again.

        You are free to say what you will, your choice of words say who you are as a person. In all, you are God’s beautiful creation. Power to you Chrys.

    2. Andrew

      Firstly, I am a Christian and proudly so, but the above couldn’t go uncontested. Your entire argument is based on a logical fallacy, that if religious chaplains are defunded in state (i.e. non religious) schools, that Christianity is “restricted”. That is a load of bollocks. Christian parents can teach their kids according to their own faith, and most churches run either Sunday schools or children’s fellowships where they can learn about God. If the parents feel really strongly, they can put their kid in a Christian school associated with their church or denomination. Having no religious instruction or chaplains in state schools gives parents the freedom to make that choice for themselves and for their kids. It also avoids inter-denominational issues – e.g. someone being taught one thing at home and the opposite at school, or even told them and their parents will go to hell if they disagree with the chaplain’s views on religion. Those issues are much bigger than many realise.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s