In NSW, we have had the school ethics classes battle; in Victoria, a bitter war of words has broken out between Christians and secularists over chaplaincy in state schools. The federal government recently added fuel to the fire by allocating an extra $222 million to fund chaplains in a further 1,000 schools over the next three years.
Some sanity was restored to the debate over chaplaincy on Thursday by Ian Harper, writing in The Australian, who emphasised that chaplaincy is quite separate from religious instruction, and that chaplains are trained to help students explore their spirituality and to offer guidance on religious and ethical matters, if requested by the student.
The National Schools Chaplaincy Program provides exactly what large numbers of parents want for their children. It is subject to careful scrutiny, and it delivers results. As Mr Harper observes:
Religious faith in its many forms thrives in our community, and governments at both state and federal level know it. By supporting school chaplaincy and securing a place for special religious instruction, governments undergird rather than undermine pluralism in our society. They stand against a narrow-minded secularism that denigrates all world views apart from its own.
Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, Sunday 29 May 2011.