Secular Party condemns Gillard on Chaplains

The Secular Party condemns the announcement by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to increase funding to school chaplains by $222 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. It also violates the principle of separation of church and state and is biassed in favour of one religion: Christianity. The state should not be the business of “advancing religion”.

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. Should students not have Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist and other chaplains too? A third problem is that schools are crying out for qualified counsellors.

Voters may have had some hope that our atheist Prime Minister may have been able to stand up to the religious lobby. These hopes are now dashed.

It was to counter the effects of the religious lobby that the Secular Party has been set up. We are fielding thirty-one candidates across Australia in the federal election. Only the Secular Party stands in the way of the growing influence of religion in Australian politics. Rather than fostering sectarianism, Australia needs politics based on the universal values of compassion, freedom, honesty and justice.

Aug 9, 2010