THE Baird government should immediately remove chaplains from NSW public schools after the High Court ruled the national program unconstitutional last month and removed all regulation. There is no evidence that the chaplains add any benefit to schools.
Parents send their children to public schools expecting a secular education and not to be preached at by a minister of religion.
It is a breach of faith to have their children exposed to proselytising, made all the more galling because it is paid for by their taxes.
Even the religious establishment is divided over the chaplain issue.
The High Court decision leaves NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli with the choice of wasting education funds to set up his own set of chaplaincy regulations or excluding them from NSW public schools.
Chaplains in NSW public schools now operate without guidelines, a code of conduct or a complaints procedure, all of which disappeared with the High Court decision.
Given the past performance and statements of one of the major providers of NSW chaplains, Genr8, this is an unacceptably dangerous position for public schools.
In its submission in 2009 to the Human Rights Commission’s Freedom of Religion and Belief, Genr8 stated: ‘‘Homosexual activity as with heterosexual fornication and adultery are serious sins in Christian theology and Biblical teaching, and we are committed to teaching this, alongside teaching the value in God’s eyes of each person no matter how much of a sinner they are.’’
Spending the state’s scarce funds on a regulatory framework for chaplains is not justified, particularly given the budget constraints that public education faces with the federal government reneging on Gonski funding.
Complaints about chaplains will remain unanswered. This is an open invitation to aggressively proselytise students or denigrate young people with diverse sexualities.
Chaplains whose worst excesses have been held in check by the national guidelines will see the next six months as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to push their religion on to impressionable young people.
The High Court decision overturning the National Schools Chaplaincy program has created a regulatory vacuum in NSW.
Chaplains have another six months of funding as the Abbott government has stated it will not attempt to recover the funds it allocated for the entire 2014 school year.
In NSW, there are no state-based guidelines. Instead, the NSW government relied on the national guidelines, which included a code of conduct and a ban on both proselytising and ‘‘expressing views that are discriminatory or biased on the grounds of religious ideology, beliefs or sexuality’’.
Chaplains in NSW public schools were banned in October 1995. When the national schools chaplaincy program was established in 2007, the then-Labor state government opened a loophole to allow only those chaplains who were authorised under the national scheme into public schools.
The national scheme is now closed and the chaplains in NSW public schools are operating outside policy and without regulation.
Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has a duty to respect the wishes of parents to protect their children from evangelising chaplains.
John Kaye is a NSW Greens MP