In 2006 the Federal Australian government under the leadership of Prime Minister John Howard, funded a national school chaplaincy program. This funding base was made available for schools to access a yearly maximum grant of $20,000 for the provision of a school chaplain, for a trial period of four years.
The following year we saw a change of government; labour swept it in and Kevin Rudd became the Prime Minister of Australia. The incumbent government looked at scrapping the schools chaplaincy program; then after much consultation, it decided in 2010 it was a worthy program and continued its funding for another four years.
Recently a Queensland man has been successful in applying to the High Court to take the government to court in regards to there being no constitutional right for the government to fund this program. He say’s he has no problems with chaplains being in the school; he has a problem with the government paying for them to being there. It’s the subject of this sentence that seems to be missing from much of the public debate that surrounds this case. Many are saying that Chaplains have no right to be involved with public education… while others are saying they have every right.
The crux of the issue is that the challenger to the court is says he thinks that Chaplains have a right to be involved at the school. The issue is who pays for them to be there; that he has problems with.
This then raises a bigger question as to whom the government should provide grants to? The government provides many community grants and funding for secular and community groups to access. And the School Chaplaincy program is but one of many groups that do this. Interestingly the government in its consultation about extending and continuing this program, found that 95% of schools that participated in this, were enthusiastic about its continuation, having found that the school community benefited greatly from this program.
What are your thoughts?