The Secular Party condemns the announcement in this week’s Federal Budget to allocate a further $222 million of taxpayer’s funds to school chaplains. It has allocated this money while cutting funding to the Digital Education Revolution (DER) by $132.5 million.

It is the policy of the Secular Party to replace the National School Chaplaincy Program, set up by the Howard government, with funding for qualified school counsellors.

Gillard had previously undertaken to replace chaplains with qualified psychologists and counsellors. This is yet another backdown by the Labor government.

Our kids don’t need chaplains, they need properly qualified counsellors. Chaplains are necessarily denominational, generally Christian and are unsuited for a modern Australia with religious minorities and kids who aren’t religious.

There are many problems with the Chaplains in Schools Program. Firstly, it violates the principle of “separation of church and state”. The state should not be in the business of “advancing religion”. Secondly, it is biased in favour of one religion: Christianity. The overwhelming majority of chaplains, if not all, are Christian. A third problem is that schools are crying out for qualified counsellors.

Meanwhile the NSW government has reluctantly allowed ethics teaching for public school children who opt out of Special Religious Instruction taught by volunteers. The Secular Party proposes that chaplains funding be used to provide qualified counsellors and to assist state governments to fund paid ethics classes in the curriculum.

May 12, 2011