This occurred several months ago but as the web site is being revived I decided to post it now. Steve Austin hosts “Mornings” on ABC radio in Brisbane. He interviewed Peter James from Scripture Union.  I wrote to him afterwards. A copy of me letter is reproduced here. He did not respond.

Hi Steve

I have a few comments about your interview with Peter James from Scripture Union.

You wondered why religious chaplains are so popular given the increasing secular nature of Australian society.

First of all, of course a school will want a free extra pair of hands. What organisation would not want a free employee? The key question though is why do schools have Christian chaplains from Scripture Union rather than secular chaplains. According to Peter James, this was an option until recently.

According to Peter James the statistics showing religious chaplains are far more prevalent than secular chaplains is a tick of approval from the community for religious values over secular values. Can I say that the community has virtually no say real say in what type of Chaplain is appointed. I have raised 4 children through state primary and state secondary schools and never once was I asked my opinion. Never did I see anything in any school newsletter asking my preference for either a secular or religious chaplain. In the real world the Principal selects the chaplain just like the principal selects other staff.

So, why do Principals overwhelming select Christian chaplains? It is because Scripture Union is well organised and are actively out there selling their services. It was the easy option for the principal to select Scripture Union as the chaplain provider.

Scripture Union knows that their chaplains are not allowed to openly proselytize but a chaplain is a foot in the door to a young mind and often the most vulnerable minds are most exposed to school chaplains.

A free market advocate might say good on them. If they are out there selling their faith then the results are a fair return for their effort. But consider this. If I wanted to start a secular chaplaincy employment group like scripture union then it would have to pay income tax. It would have to pay fringe benefits tax. It’s meeting halls where it worshipped secularism would have to pay rates. It would be at a significant financial disadvantage to the religious groups who do not have to pay such business expenses.

Of course there is also the fundamental issue that children should not be exposed to religious indoctrination. Chaplains use their position to encourage children to join their church for activities outside of school hours e.g the schoolies camps he mentioned. Religions do more harm than good and should be kept away from our precious children.

Really Steve, if you look at an issue and can’t see the other side to the argument then perhaps you should invite to the debate a member of the opposing lobby group. A simple call to the Secular Party would have provided answers to a lot of your questions and you could have had a more lively, entertaining and most importantly informative discussion.

Trevor Bell

Secular Party member