Monthly Archives: May 2014

Jesus Christ! Another chaplaincy petition!

Evonne Paddison from Access Ministries wants this video shared as widely as possible.

What the hell! I have a pretty fair network. Jesus Christ! Why wouldn’t I help her out?

Poor old Evonne, plagued with yet another annoying High Court challenge which points out that the government is funding chaplaincy illegally. Surely, Jesus would be just delirious about having  money spent illegally in his name and chaplains breaking their promise not to proselytise in order to spread the Gospel in schools. Great PR for the old boy!

Now, Evonne’s pretty keen that you sign a petition supporting chaplains. But, as you can see from the video, she’s extra-peachy-keen for people to have a choice. So, I know she’ll support me in directing you towards another petition – one which has already garnered over 165,000 signatures. (Guess those chappies aren’t quite as popular as Evonne thinks!)

This petition points out that taxpayers’ money is being ploughed into chaplaincy providers which have decidedly homophobic attitudes. We can’t have that, can we?  It’s being presented on Monday. Perhaps you’d like to sign … and share?

Chrys Stevenson

 

The Circus that is National School Chaplaincy

I have a new article up today on The Big Smoke. It’s called:

Send in the Clowns: Guidelines won’t stop school chaplains proselytising

The article is a response to an earlier article :

Chaplaincy: It’s not all God’s work

in which, law student, Rach Mason makes the following claims:

“[Williams’] original High Court challenge failed to address state and church separation on technical grounds. This time, Williams is challenging the legislation used to fund chaplaincy.”

Actually, Williams’ High Court challenge didn’t address state and church separation because Australia has no constitutional state and church separation. Ms Mason would do well to read the Defence of Government Schools Case (1981). Williams challenged the (lack of) legislation used to fund chaplaincy as his primary argument in both cases – as Ms Mason would have known had she bothered to read the submissions and transcripts before writing about it.

“… chaplaincy is justified on its own merits”

I’d like to see the evidence for that. Where is the research? No hyperlink graces the assertion, sadly.sad clown

According to Rach Mason – chaplains don’t counsel and don’t proselytise, because those activities are prohibited in the guidelines. The first assertion is addressed in my response to Ms Mason’s article. The second, regarding counselling, was answered by the Commonwealth Solicitor-General and Scripture Union’s QC who argued movingly in the High Court that grief counselling by chaplains was one of the major benefits chaplains offered to students. Oops! It was a tad embarrassing when one of the High Court justices pointed out that counselling was not allowed under the guidelines.

Something that didn’t make it into the Big Smoke article and added here as an extra bonus for my readers is the fact that ‘proselytising’ is rather narrowly defined in the guidelines – intentionally to provide maximum freedom to the evangelicals, we suspect. I spoke to Hugh Wilson, vice-president of the Australian Secular Lobby about the ‘p’ word (proselytising) in respect to chaplaincy. Here’s his response:

“”During the discussions with DETE on the chaplaincy policy review the ASL-HSQ [Australian Secular Lobby-Humanist Society of Queensland]  team tabled a list of many, perhaps 30 or so, precise definitions of the P word taken from a wide range of dictionary sources readily available to anyone able to use Google or a basic book library system.

“The one used by both the Commonwealth and DETE has been carefully selected to exclude that vast bulk of the meaning, quite deliberately we believe, to facilitate P-ing in schools without having a clear, precise and relevant, not to mention comprehensive, definition as the ‘reasonable person in the street’ might understand it to mean.

“While we were discussing this we also highighted the rather ‘light-on’ definition of E-ing [evangalising] too.

“In relation to the P word, DETE staff said they agreed with us but that ‘they [their political masters? the DG [Director-General]? the old REAC [Religion Education Advisory Committee] crew?] would not accept a proper definition”, which rather says it all in my mind.”

I felt the proselytising claim needed my full attention, so that’s what I’ve focused on in my response on The Big Smoke. But my regular readers will know that I could have spent several thousand words refuting Ms Mason’s well-meaning but misinformed views on the Williams case, chaplaincy, and church-state separation.  Perhaps you may wish to set her straight in the comments to either my article or hers. Politely, of course.

Chrys Stevenson

 

 

Ron Williams questions Hockey re Chaplaincy

This video was prepared for tonight’s Q&A but no video questions were aired. It’s too good not to go viral.  Maybe consider reblogging/tweeting/facebooking – or send a copy to your local MP.

 

Donations towards Ron Williams’ legal fees can be made at his website:  High Court Challenge

 

Chrys Stevenson

Shining a spotlight on “Shine”

gender-rolesShine is a ‘self-development’ program run as an extra-curricular activity in schools throughout the country. It’s promoted to parents as being secular, but it isn’t. The program was developed by Hillsong Church and is highly gendered. Shine operates very much like a trojan-horse within schools. Girls are encouraged into the program and the aim is for facilitators to ‘form relationships’ with the girls and to peak their interest in another program, not connected with the school. Facilitators are advised:

“When you go into a high school as a Shine facilitator you are strategically positioned to place value on each girl and her LIFE. It may take a few months from the first meeting until you get a green light to take the program into the school. Be encouraged to develop a good relationship with the school through being patient, gracious and committed… Maintain a servant heart and a desire to be a blessing, remembering that you are in their school environment! If the school is not open to the full course, offer to do a single unit as a sample. We have found consistently that this opens the door for the full program. You will need to contact us if you are in this situation…. If a question arises about the ‘faith-based nature of the program advise the school that the program is based on fundamental life principles. It is not a religious program in any way, shape or form. The values and principles are solely to do with the truth that girls have worth, can develop strength and have purpose. Stay with the basics.” – Source

When the girls have completed the 9 session program they are encouraged to participate in the next phase – outside the school. There, the restrictions of religious evangelising do not apply. It’s about identifying kids who might be vulnerable to a religious message and encouraging them to form a relationship with the facilitators outside the school environment. It is, in my opinion, predatory. Have a listen to one facilitator, Sunshine, describing how she sees this ‘non religious’ program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2W-CnTcdFzQ

The Australian Secular Lobby, in collaboration with the Humanist Society of Queensland, has decided to shine a spotlight on Shine and their equally-gendered program for boys, Strength.

They are seeking input from parents of state school children on their experiences with the program.

If you have had any dealings with Shine or Strength at your school presently or in the past, say, five years, please consider sharing your experience

The ASL and the HSQ promise they will respect contributors’ privacy and will not post the stories submitted anywhere, ever. However, they will be asking some parents, maybe all depending on what comes to light, to consider speaking to a journalist who is interested in a Queensland story on the topic.

Please send details of your experience to one of the following:

ASL@australiansecularlobby.com

info@hsq.org.au

Chrys Stevenson

Quarter of a billion taxpayers’ dollars for THIS, Mr Hockey?

I have a Twitter friend, an ordinary Aussie mum, so outraged at the allocation of nearly quarter of a billion dollars in taxpayers’ money to the National School Chaplaincy Program, she’s taken to scanning the internet for information about what chaplains actually do.

We’re told they can’t proselytise, the guidelines say they can’t ‘counsel’. In a budget which slashed funding for the CSIRO, failed to provide ongoing funding to help students with disabilities to stay in school, cut millions out of Federal funding for dental care and alternative energy, and slashed $80 billion from state-provided health and education services  – how does Mr Hockey justify one-quarter of a billion dollars for chaplains!

What do they actually do?

In my previous post I revealed that, despite the ban on proselytising, chaplains, and the funding recipients which provide them, see one of their key roles as ‘making disciples’.

No, that doesn’t involve a piece of folded up paper and a pair of scissors. It means making your kids into Bible-believing, happy-clapping, tithe-paying followers of Christ; whether you, as a parent, like it or not.

You don’t get to sign a permission slip for your child to ‘attend’ the chaplain’s ‘office’. The chaplain is ubiquitous in the school – speaking (even praying) on assembly and special school events,  in the classroom as a teachers’ aide, coaching sporting teams, running sausage sizzles and crazy hair days, presiding over lunch-time ‘clubs’, mixing and mingling on the playground and accompanying the kids on school excursions. If you want to exclude your child from interaction from the chaplain, you’ll pretty much need to exclude them from school.

Now, chaplains aren’t allowed to proselytise. But if your child finds lunch time a bit boring, they might just follow some of their friends into the chaplain’s lunch time ‘club’ or ‘group’. This, apparently, is allowed under the guidelines.

And, thanks to my curious Twitter friend, we have an insight into the kinds of things that go on in these taxpayer funded sessions in taxpayer funded school rooms. Now, you can see – at least in part – what your quarter of a billion dollars is being spent on!

Calum Henderson is a Christian primary school teacher. Recently, under the auspices of the Crusader Union of Australia – Crusaders: Sharing Jesus with a new generation – Henderson presented a session at a development day for teachers and school chaplains. The session focused on games that can be played during lunchtime Christian group sessions.

No intellectual discussion about the wisdom of the crusades, here, folks! No education about the impact of religion on art and politics, no insights into the theological differences that led to the split between Protestants and Catholics, no introspection about whether modern ethics and Biblical law are compatible!

No. Instead, Calum suggests that chaplains should remove the labels from cans of food and let the kids guess what’s inside them. Could be anything, right? That’s the fun! Bet you would never have guessed Split Pea and Ham Soup! Gotcha!

Here’s another great activity that’s apparently worth more than providing funding for hospitals and dental care:   line up three glasses with three different kinds of Coke in them and see if the kids can tell which is which.

That’ll get those intellectual juices flowing!

And, just to make sure the kids get in some vital physical activity, there’s this great game where one player holds up a finger and the other person tries to grab it. Riveting stuff!

Yes, it’s true, I’m being facetious and misrepresenting these suggestions somewhat. You see, these are not just silly but fun games for bored kids. No. They’re designed to loosen the kids up to be receptive to the chaplain’s message. 

“Try to link games to the Bible topic as often as possible,” Henderson advises. “If you only have 30 minutes, a 10 minute game which reinforces the main point will be incredibly helpful.”

The aim, as the Crusader Union puts it so succinctly is to ‘share Jesus with a new generation’.

Mr Hockey’s quarter of a billion dollar gift is allowing chaplains to do just that – in our public, secular, taxpayer funded schools.

“There is nothing more wonderful than witnessing a young person put their trust in the Lord, walking alongside them as they learn to treasure God’s Word and seeing them go out to declare their faith among their peers. And Crusaders is there to help them!”

“Since 1930,” I learn from their website, “Crusaders has been blessed to see lives transformed by the Gospel on a regular basis. This year, Crusaders staff and volunteer leaders will reach over 2,500 children and teenagers each week across NSW and the ACT with the Good News of Jesus.”

But, Crusaders isn’t just about getting chaplains and teachers to proselytise to children. The aim is to train up kids to bring in their friends. It’s works just like network marketing.

Here’s the blurb:

“CRU knows it can be hard to share Jesus with your friends and stay strong in your faith at school.

That’s why CRU has 6 full-time staff workers to visit, support and speak at your CRU Lunchtime Group, give Bible talks at chapel and help train you for Christian leadership.”

Well, that’s a relief! And your chappie is right there in the school to help you get all your unchurched friends to come to lunchtime groups and, “Hey! Guess what? CRU also holds holiday camps! Cool, huh?” 

You see, the thing is, there’s this inconvenient ban on proselytising in schools, so chaplains have to be a bit subtle. If you can just encourage the kids to attend a camp – and peer pressure functions hugely in this – then you’re free of the constrictions of the National School Chaplaincy and Education Department guidelines. It’s gloves off.

“CRU Camps endeavor to provide all campers with a camp experience where they can build meaningful friendships, see ‘real’ Christian leaders live out what they believe, and have heaps of fun.”

While Australians wait up to six years to see a specialist, while kids’ teeth rot for want of dental care, while science is sold down the river, while pensioners are told they have to pull in their belts even further to help a nation suffering crippling debt, Mr Hockey has found a quarter of a billion dollars for this travesty. 

Mr Hockey will be answering viewers’ questions on Q and A on Monday night. Maybe you’d like to submit one?

Chrys Stevenson

 

 

 

School Chaplains – Making Disciples

make-disciples-textIn last night’s budget, the Abbott government commited a further $245 million to fund the presence of religious chaplains in state schools for the next five years.  This, despite the High Court having already ruled once that such funding is illegal and another decision pending,  following plaintiff, Ron Williams’ return to the High Court last week.

It is not for the High Court to decide on the value or otherwise of placing religious practitioners into schools at the expense of professionals with tertiary qualifications in psychology, counselling and youth work. The Williams decision will be made on the basis of whether the funding arrangements are permitted under the limited legislative parameters placed on the Federal government by the Constitution. 

The argument about whether chaplaincy is a wise or responsible use of public money must take place in the public square, not the High Court. It is for the Australian public to decide whether that money could be better spent on, say, disability services in schools, text books, better IT equipment, airconditioning, swimming pools, or, God forbid, tertiary trained, welfare workers with no particular religious axe to grind.

It is up to the Australian public to exert pressure on their political representatives – both Federal and state –  to end this cynical attempt to purchase the votes of an imagined ‘Christian constituency’.  At its worse, it is outright pork-barreling. At its best, it is pork-barreling combined with an ideological agenda to ‘re-Christianise’ a nation which is moving rapidly away from religious faith by infiltrating the educational incubators of our next generation of workers and leaders. 

The evangelistic tendencies of the mostly fundamentalist, Protestant, religious evangelists who profit from the National School Chaplaincy Program are inexplicably talked up as representing one of the key benefits of the program, while, at the same time frantically obfuscated to deflect criticism.

Chaplains are unashamedly in schools to inculcate ‘values’. They are religious chaplains for a reason: (there never were many truly  ‘secular’ welfare workers’, and the new budget provides only for those of a religious bent). 

John Howard said when he announced the program in 2006 that he was unashamedly calling them chaplains:

“Yes I am calling them chaplains because that has a particular connotation in our language, and as you know, I am not ever overwhelmed by political correctness. To call a chaplain a counsellor is to bow to political correctness. Chaplain has a particular connotation. People understand it, they know exactly what I am talking about.”

When atheist Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was grilled about her views on the chaplaincy program, she cowered in front of Australian Christian Lobby chief, Jim Wallace and recited a well-rehearsed:

“… my view about the chaplaincy program is yes, it would continue as a chaplaincy program, with everything that that implies.”

And yet, in the face of criticism from various quarters including teachers, parents, psychologists, members of non-Christian religious groups and secularists that the program breaches the spirit of the separation of church and state and compromises the principle of Australian education as ‘free, compulsory and secular’, its advocates stand, hand on Bible, and swear that the religious component is ‘incidental’ because chaplains are expressly forbidden from proselytising in the program’s guidelines.

Confusion reigned in the High Court, this week, when the Commonwealth solicitor-general and the QC representing Scripture Union Queensland made passionate representations about the value of chaplains as counselors – until it was pointed out by both one of the Justices and by Mr Williams’ barrister that the guidelines expressly forbid chaplains from counseling students. 

Mr Williams’ barrister also questioned how the inculcation of ‘values’ – put forward as a benefit of the program –  could be achieved when the specific values associated with religious chaplains (surely irrevocably entwined with the concept of following Christ and his teachings) were not permitted to be proselytised. 

Ron Williams, Hugh Wilson and I, of course, knew the answer to this question was that chaplains routinely counsel and proselytise in a clear breach of the National School Chaplaincy Program guidelines and Education Queensland policy. If they do not, there is really very little purpose to them being in schools beyond running crazy hair days and presiding over sausage sizzles.

So, I was not surprised, this morning, when a Twitter follower sent me a link to a blog called “The crossroad – thoughts on theology, society, justice and discipleship” by Daniel Baxter, a school chaplain who appears to be working in two state schools in Brisbane.

On 12 February, this year, Daniel wrote a blog in which he confessed:

“Discipleship is a journey where we are consistently changed, renewed and restored. It is ultimately a journey deeper into a relationship with Jesus, and to becoming more effective at seeing and establishing the Kingdom of God in our world. It’s a journey I am very passionate about personally, and it is my mission to disciple others, including kids and their families in the schools I work in, as well as those around me in church life. ” [Emphasis added]

I’ve taken a screenshot because experience has shown me that, once spotlighted, these kinds of frank statements tend to magically disappear into the ether.

Baxter Blog

Baxter’s words echo those of Evonne Paddison, whose organisation, Access Ministries, receives millions of taxpayers’ dolars to place chaplains and religious instructors in Victorian schools:

“What really matters is seizing the God-given opportunity we have to reach kids in schools. Without Jesus, our students are lost”.

“It’s important that the church recognize its commission is to make disciples. Our young people need Christ”.

“What a commandment, make disciples (of school children). What a responsibility. What a privilege we have been given. Let’s go for it!”

Similarly, ‘Sunshine’ who spoke for the ‘value’ of Hillsong’s ‘Shine’ program – which was (perhaps unwisely) touted by Scripture Union’s QC as one of the beneficial offshoots of chaplaincy – candidly reveals its real purpose of religion-in-schools in this video:

“This program’s important to me because it gives me an opportunity to connect with the girls out there; it gives the Church an opportunity to have a foot in the door … and to give them those principles that my mom gave me that I know they might not get if they’re not in a Christian family. I want to see these young girls come to knowledge of Salvation; to get to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.” – Sunshine Wretham, Shine promotional video

For those chaplains who might be a bit squeamish about openly flouting the rules the solution is easy – and we know it happens routinely; find vulnerable, unchurched kids and encourage them to attend a Scripture Union Queensland camp on the holidays, where the evangelising gloves can come off. It helps if you can encourage their friends to exert a little gentle peer pressure – “Oh come on, we’re all going! It’ll be fun!”

It is well meaning. I have no doubt of the sincerity of these ‘fishers of children’. But at its heart it is predatory behaviour and completely ignores the rights of parents – of all faiths and of none – to maintain control over this aspect of their childrens’ education and philosophical development. 

There is no doubt in my mind at all that the majority of chaplains see their role as making disciples of impressionable children. That their overriding mission in our country’s supposedly secular schools is conversion.

I find it offensive, in the extreme, that in a multi-faith, secular nation, our government is spending an obscene amount of money on this fundamentalist, ideological offensive at the expense of programs that would provide real, tangible benefits to our students. Surely they deserve better.

Chrys Stevenson

Baptist bastardry stripped bare …

Isn’t it curious that those same ‘good’ Christians who believe our kids need to be inculcated with ‘Christian’ values via the National School Chaplaincy Program are quite happy for the Federal government to defy the High Court and spend taxpayers’ money in contravention of the Constitution (according to High Court rulings in Pape and Williams (1)) so long as their own interests are served.

What kinds of ‘values’ are these?

Do we really want our children told that it’s OK to break the law as long as you gain an advantage from it?

How about using a public sign to bully, threaten and publicly shame someone whose perfectly legal actions you’ve taken issue with? Is this the kind of ‘Christian behaviour’ being modeled by the chaplains who, to date, have cost Australian taxpayers half a billion dollars (and to whom another $250 million has been promised in tonight’s budget).

Eiser St Baptist Church

 

And, what about when your bad behaviour is ‘outed’ – is it ‘Christian’ to apologise for a lapse of judgement or do you just change the sign so it looks like the meaning was misconstrued?

Who me? No! I didn’t do anything bad – LOOK!

 

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But the Eiser Street Baptists shouldn’t think that they’ve put the wind up Ron Williams. As they say, threatening a non-believer with hell is like a hippie threatening to punch you in your aura.

Ron Eiser Street

When I spoke to Ron this morning he was nearly weeping with laughter and rushed right out to get a happy snap.

But, still, shame on you, Eiser Street Baptist Church, Toowoomba. This is Baptist bastardry stripped bare.

Chrys Stevenson