Media Release: Folau + Chaplains + Senate Inquiry

What are School Chaplains telling LGBTIQ kids about Hell?

  • Are Folau-style Chaplains putting the ‘fear of God’ into LGBTQI kids?
  • NSL Ambassadors now lobbying for Senate Inquiry into public school Chaplains
  • Forensic scrutiny of counter-productive Chaplaincy program is essential  

NSL ambassador Jane Caro is calling on Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison to agree to a Senate Inquiry into the contentious National School Chaplaincy Program in “secular” public schools irrespective of who wins Saturday’s Federal election.

Ms Caro said that comments from both leaders in recent days on the Israel Folau case have raised the question of whether chaplains in the taxpayer-funded program are also saying that LGBTIQ students are going to hell.

Currently there are about 3,000 evangelical Christian chaplains working in government education.

In February, Scott Morrison announced a $247 million expansion of the program until 2022, meaning it has now cost taxpayers just on $1 billion, since its creation by John Howard in 2007.

Peak bodies in teaching, psychology, and a raft of secular, rationalist and humanist organisations have long warned that the chaplaincy program is counter-productive because it brings Folau’s type of fundamentalist views into school communities and marginalises at-risk students.

Ms Caro said unqualified chaplains “simply drained public funds for no clear benefit to students, with no regulatory oversight, and no professional evaluation”.  She said it was time for “forensic scrutiny” from a Senate Inquiry by the new Parliament.

“On two occasions the High Court ruled that funding of the NSCP to be unconstitutional – but the Federal Government ignored the rulings, twice, and ‘directly funded’ the States,” she said.

“We have video evidence that the evangelical hire firms see access to public schools as an opportunity for chaplains to give “purpose and meaning” to students, and to “have a relationship with Jesus”.

“This contravenes federal regulations to stop the tendency of chaplains to proselytise,” Ms Caro said.

The Folau case has now raised the question of whether Government-funded chaplains are also putting the ‘fear of God’ into young minds as a form of soft proselytising.

“For LGBTI students the problem is exacerbated – confronted by chaplains steeped in Biblical doctrine and without the specialist training required,” Ms Caro said.

“The chaplaincy program discriminates against all non-religious students who may feel uncomfortable being approached by Christian chaplains in school.”

NSL has anecdotal evidence that the majority of chaplains share Scott Morrison’s evangelical beliefs, and the hire firms exploit their influence by drawing many students into extracurricular activities to learn more about Jesus.

Ms Caro echoed the sentiments of Ron Williams, the Queenslander who won the two High Court cases against the Federal Government, who called for a Senate Inquiry into the program in 2014.

According to a 2011 Government discussion paper, 98 per cent of chaplains were Christian.  In the 2016 census 30 per cent had ‘no religion’, and an Ipsos poll that same year showed 78 per cent of the population what the ‘separation of Church and State’.

“By 2022 the deceptive funding of NSCP – to circumvent two High Court rulings – will have cost taxpayers $1 Billion over 15 years; valuable resources which could have funded the ABC for an entire year,” she said.

NSL is calling on the incoming government to establish a Senate Inquiry to investigate the lack of transparency, accountably and effectiveness of the NSCP scheme.

The National Secular Lobby is Australia’s peak representative body for the ‘Separation of Church and State’ – and specifically to reduce the influence of religion in politics, education, the media and judiciary.

Ms Caro is one of seven NSL ambassadors who support NSL’s Secular Agenda.  There is additional information on NSL’s website about why the NSCP should be modified or scrapped.

National Secular Lobby