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Jun 21, 2012

Chaplains outcome another belated loss for the Howard govt

The High Court's decision yesterday on the Williams schools chaplains case isn't exactly a bombshell, but it will make life for the Commonwealth a little more difficult -- and unnecessarily so.


The High Court’s decision yesterday on the Williams schools chaplains case isn’t exactly a bombshell, but it will make life for the Commonwealth a little more difficult — and unnecessarily so. It also strengthens the case for constitutional recognition of local government.

In short, the court found that by simply assuming it was able under the constitution to fund anything that it could have funded if there was legislation for it, the Commonwealth had erred: there didn’t just need to be a sort of possibility of legislation, but actual legislation. Nor was simply appropriating the money via an appropriation bill sufficient to do the trick.

The result is that any expenditure that lacks authorising legislation, or doesn’t flow via the states, is now problematic under the constitution.

This is the second reversal for the Commonwealth’s spending powers in recent years. The court only narrowly ruled against the effort by the National Party’s Bryan Pape to stop the Rudd government providing economic stimulus during the financial crisis in 2009, in a decision that narrowed the constitutional capacity of the government to spend. It’s a marked contrast to the support the court gave to the Howard government’s spending of money on WorkChoices advertising despite there being no appropriation for it in the budget, in a broad interpretation of the outcomes and outputs framework for Commonwealth appropriations challenged by Nicola Roxon and Greg Combet (then at the ACTU).

The school chaplains program was also a Howard government program, and confirms just how fast and loose that government played with its expenditure. There was another, notorious example that never went before the High Court but that the ANAO later revealed: the Howard government’s internal advertising committee illegally spent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars handing large WorkChoices marketing contracts to Liberal Party mates, in a scandal that the mainstream media have remained strangely uninterested in ever since.

And this is the second big posthumous legal defeat for the Howard government. In 2009, the High Court demolished an entire judicial structure put in place by that government in an effort to curry favour with the military — a seven-zip verdict against the constitutionality of the Australian Military Court, just as predicted by virtually everyone when it was legislated, including some Coalition senators.

Perhaps coincidentally, today Nicola Roxon and Stephen Smith jointly issued a media release announcing the bill to establish the replacement structure for the AMC would be introduced into Parliament. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t skip the bit about “the High Court’s decision in Lane v Morrison, which found the Australian Military Court established by the previous Government to be unconstitutional”.

Labor may be inclined to feel a little gypped by the tides of jurisprudence; the Howard government’s carefree attitude to pork-barrelling was never pulled up short by the High Court during its life; instead, Labor must wear the results. It means it will have to seek legislation for spending more often, meaning more programs will be hostage to the crossbenches and the Senate, or rely on the states, who clip the ticket on any Commonwealth funding they get before actually directing it to the intended recipients.

Much of the attention following the decision has focused on the implications for directing Commonwealth funding to local governments. Local government, such as the Scripture Union Queensland in the Williams case, has no constitutional significance, despite being considered the third level of government. The case for constitutional recognition of local government is therefore strengthened by the outcome of Williams, just as it was strengthened by the Pape case. The Gillard government is committed, via its agreements with the crossbenchers, to a referendum on recognition of local government.

The Coalition, however, appear to be at sixes and sevens — Barnaby Joyce is a strong advocate of it, but some Liberals aren’t; at the moment Coalition support is only “in principle”.

The last time the issue got an airing was in 1988, when John Howard set out to wreck recognition by conjuring a vast conspiracy that would have seen the Hawke government replace Australian states with “socialist republics” such as the Australian Capital Territory. It was absurd stuff, but sufficient to see the defeat of the referendum. No one would suggest Tony Abbott is above a similar stunt.


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58 thoughts on “Chaplains outcome another belated loss for the Howard govt

  1. The Pav

    The failure of Chaplains program and your comment on Howard played fast & loose shodhould be yet another nail in the coffin that conations the myth that the Howard Govt was in any waya capable money manager.

    It also makes laughable that Abbott should presume to have any economic credentials.

    You shouldn’t be surprised that the MSM hasn’t acted on the advertising scandal. Hardly surprisng since they were the main beneficiaries.

    Is this how Howard bought support of News Ltd?

  2. Charles Richardson

    And of course don’t forget Plaintiff M70/2011 v Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, which invalidated offshore processing. So nice of them to wait until Howard was no longer in office.

  3. Bill Hilliger

    Don’t forget Howard had control of the senate during the last stage of his term in office. In a round about way it was to lead to his demise. Wonderful stuff.

  4. Holden Back

    Howard Government booby-traps. There’s a series of articles I’d like to see on Crikey.

  5. David Allen

    I can’t believe how much skin this government is prepared to lose in hanging on to Howard policies.

  6. Michael de Angelos

    Absent in the MSM is any mention of Tony Abbott’s role in these disasters as a senior Minister in the Howard government for all those years.

    And of course Kim Williams CEO of News Ltd scoffs at the claims of anti-Labor bias in his newspapers.

  7. James K

    Does this high court decision muck things up for the commonwealth to fund other programs in schools? Anti-bullying programs? Putting money into more welfare workers in schools? Anti-taking drugs programs? all that?

    it might be a success for those who wanted to have a shot at chaplaincy in schools, but … at what cost really?

  8. Anoise Mike

    And yet the program is so popular in schools because it’s another councillor (usually with little/dubious professional training) the that school gets , in this case for free.

  9. James K

    Anoise: the level of training of chaplains, depends mostly on the state they are in. Here in Victoria, most chaplains are placed by the group called ACCESS and they expect solid training and continue with ongoing professional development for their people. Their chaplains will usually have at least a Bachelors in Counselling or something similar (sometimes a Bachelors in Education instead).

    Some chaplains in Vic are not placed by ACCESS and are just found by the individual schools.

    But ACCESS train their chaplains to be servants to the school community, and to never discriminate between any kids or families, and to professionally input the needs of that community. So they will journey with troubled teens who might be doing things that they (as Christian ministers or lay persons would not usually do) – but they are not to be judgmental or critical, but rather support and assist the person as the person seeks their way forward.

    A survey of all schools across Australia that have chaplains, asked the principals if they were happy with their chaplains: 97% said yes, please let us keep them. I dont know of any other program with that much support at school level across the board.

    Some fundamentalists seem to have got into the Qld lot, though, and hence this court case. It really depends a lot on who is placing the chaplains – of course – even then – the schools make the final decision and they say yes or no to any chaplain offered to them.

    And that is a postive feature of the system: they are only in schools that want them. it is the school’s call in the end, not Mr Howards or any govt’s. There are issues of funding and church and state and all that, that are important issues too. But we can at least be grateful that schools make the decision or not, to have them. No chaplain is imposed on a reluctant school community.

  10. Hamis Hill

    Re the constitutional lack of recognition for local government.
    I smell a rat after reading Prof. Edward Shann’s The Economic History of Australia.
    The original source of revenue for the pre-federation Crown Colonies was the sale of Crown lands.
    These revenue raising powers, which include rezoning powers, have now devolved to the local government level.
    The re-zoning profits, which are huge, now tend to accrue to private interests who have an “interest” to contest and win control of local governments where they they are then free to pursue and win the re-zoning profits which formerly went to the Crown.
    The suppression of Edward Shann’s work, which aimed at raising the knowledge and understanding of ordinary citizens, seems to me to verify the presence of rats.
    If there is, as a result of recent court decisions a successful campaign to constitutionally recognise local government then all profits from rezoning in particular must revert to the people of Australia
    through the Crown.
    As for direct funding to local government by the Feds Whitlam started that game to discountenance the conservative states.
    Conservative states who consistently do nothing to return rezoning profits to the Crown as happened in colonial times. Ian Temby QC found that “A climate conducive to corruption” existedn local government when working as NSW”S first Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.
    Here’s betting that none of the above wiil appear in the campaign to recognise local government
    in the constitution.The mire of corruption is much too deep.

  11. geomac62

    The chaplain policy is a farce in that rather than a chaplain type advocacy its a proselyting policy by the groups providing the ” chaplains ” . In Victoria if a child doesn,t participate in the class the child sit outside twiddling their thumbs . A waste of money and poorly administered by blinkered unaccountable zealots .

  12. Scott

    I think you missed the main point of the judgement, BK. This is a states rights issue.
    The main issue the High Court had with the contractual relationship was that it was between the Federal Education department and the SUQ. As Education is one of the “shared” areas of responsibility between the states and the Feds in the constitution, the judges thought that it was overreach for the Feds to enter into the contract without legislation, that the funding of chaplains in schools by the department of Educationisn’t explicity an executive function of the Commonwealth when the states also have jurisdiction there (even though, when there is a confict, the Federal law prevails). It would have been fine if the spending was in the areas of exclusive control of the Feds (i.e immigration, defence)
    It’s a fair enough judgement as well. There has been far too much expansion of Federal power grabbing lately in my opinion (Mining Tax, Carbon Tax and Health Care Spending to name a few of the areas where the Feds are centralising power from the states in recent times).

  13. James K

    Geomac62 – you seem to be mixing up chaplains working in schools (usually as part of the welfare team), with instructors of Religious Education (RE).

    These are different people doing different stuff.

    Both groups are (in Victoria) placed by the same overall organisation (ACCESS) but chaplains are one group of workers in the schools that the schools do NOT have to have there. RE teachers are volunteers who come into the schools and do their thing (and of course kids dont have to sit through it as you point out – whether or not they are then idle,…. well… I suspect the schools probably dont let that happen on purpose).

    The Vic chaplains are certainly not proselyting zealots. Not the ones placed by ACCESS at least (and they place most of them in Vic). They are servants to the school community, usually helping in the welfare program, and they can be given the flick any time if the school so chooses.

    Are you suggesting that the schools that have chaplains actually have principals who are secretly proselyting zealots? or Principals who are just stupid who cant see what the chaplains are really up to? (because they can be rid of them any time they so chose to be).

  14. eric

    “Howard government’s internal advertising committee illegally spent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars handing large WorkChoices marketing contracts to Liberal Party mates, in a scandal that the mainstream media have remained strangely uninterested in ever since.”

    Bernard ,The baying main stream media being led by the rabid OZ is never going to mention anything bad about the Howard Govt while all the while denigrating the Gillard government every day!

  15. Liz45

    Notice how quiet Ruddock is about this – and the other High Court decision, re asylum seekers? I recall hearing that during the Howard years, there were at least a dozen people with legal expertise? on the front bench. Amazing how often they got it wrong? Ruddock was almost sacked due to his outbursts re a High Court decision? He just missed being hauled before the court/Senate for his outbursts. Anyone remember that?

    When the last Senate seat was announced after the 2004 Election, it was Boswell, on the telly, who spoke to Howard via phone. He almost said, it’s ‘open slather’ but was stopped!! Well, it turned out to be so, hence Worst-choices and the Anti-Terrorism Act that were passed, with hardly any debate, and rammed through the Senate? We didn’t hear one word of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, and Howard lied re the Work-choices Bill – fancy that?

    I don’t agree with any religious teaching in State schools – it’s obscene. What is happening via the Chaplains, is brainwashing in many cases. I support Ethics classes for all kids, and if there’s a need for Psychological counselling in schools, let’s have properly trained people with Psychological/Trauma Counselling qualifications. I’m surprised these ‘god botherers’ haven’t caused more problems by their inexperience.

    By the way, those who accuse the PM re her voice should listen to Abetz – he’s as bad if not worse? The PM was good on Q&A last Monday week – she got Tony Jones a beauty – or was it two! I clapped her!

  16. geomac62

    You may have a point in the technical sense but maybe not in the practice or reality of what happens .

    EMILY BOURKE: Religion in government schools is again under fire. A Christian group which provides chaplains and special religious instruction to Victorian schools has been recorded telling a group of evangelical Anglicans at a conference that it should make disciples in schools.

  17. geomac62

    For the full page from which I got the above by Emily Bourke go to this link.


  18. geomac62

    Under moderation for link , fair enough I guess . Search for Emily Bourke , worldtoday and ABC .

  19. James K

    Geomac62 – I am still curious as to what you think really happens?

    But I appreciate you conceding that I had a point (I am presuming that is the point about it being a voluntary program at the discretion of the school community), even if you think I am missing reality.

    Do you know many chaplains personally? have you spoken to the schools that have them?

    I personally do know “what really happens” because I have a family member who is a Vic chaplain. And she does not try to convert anyone, she is not a fundamentalist, she supports gay kids as they get to realise they are gay, she supports straight kids through their traumas, she runs anti-bullying classes for the kids; she does parent support groups for kids with issues, (none of it has a religious barb to “trick” anyone into somehow embracing religion), and she would never even think to discriminate or force her personal views on people. She just wants to get on with the work of supporting the school community. In my way of looking at things, i see her as quite an exceptional person to be in a school community.

    And when I ask her about her colleagues, it is nearly always the same: especially those placed by ACCESS (with the schools final nod for any placement of course).

  20. shepherdmarilyn

    Ban all mention of religion in state schools I say.

  21. James K

    Geomac62 – you are right about that “recording” from one of ACCESS’s leaders at some conference. it did get said, and it was all very “here’s our chance to have an influence and make disciples” etc.

    I asked the family member I mentioned above (in a post awaiting moderation – maybe it will get in before this one does!) – the one who is a chaplain, placed by ACCESS, about it. She said “yes, that lady did say that in a kind of “rah-rah” moment, but the truth is that we just don’t see ourselves doing that. It’s not our role. We simply model servanthood.”

    I sometimes despair at the fact that people make those extreme statements in highly emotive environments, when they do not reflect the actions or the outlook of the people in the schools themselves. (I wonder if they do it because they are always looking for fund-raising and it is what the particular audience wants to hear? Not very ethical if that is the case, hey!)

    But the point has to be conceded. it got said. And things have a way of coming back to bite – even if they are not actually all that accurate.

  22. Nick the Hippy

    I am a qualified and experienced youth worker but I would not allowed to access any of the positions funded by the Federal Govt because I am an agnostic. However,
    if I had an affiliation with an organisation which is being investigated in many places for institutionalised child abuse I would be allowed into those schools. Makes sense to me.

  23. arnold ziffel

    In the article: ‘Local government, such as the Scripture Union Queensland in the Williams case, has no constitutional significance, despite being considered the third level of government.’
    I’m assuming that the reference to the Scripture Union is an editing error.

    James K: ‘Are you suggesting that the schools that have chaplains actually have principals who are secretly proselyting zealots?’
    Would that be so far-fetched?

    I believe there are instances of Xtian groups in NSW (in Ulladulla for one example?) boosting the idea of chaplaincy as an opportunity for recruiting new members, much as Tim Costello’s people were caught out doing something similar after the tsunami in Sri Lanka.
    They see this as their duty.

  24. Hamis Hill

    Re local government the mire of corruption is much too deep and the complete indifference of posters is set in reinforced concrete in the depths of the slough but they still manage to interact with each other, just don’t glamourise it as communication( unless it is the disease of narcissism).
    Yes local government actually apeade in the original article and the court judgement was about all federal funding not just to Chaplaincy. Hello?

  25. James K

    Arnold: some see it as their ‘duty’. Others do not. It is absurd to generalise, especially in favour of the minority who might be like that and who are in chaplaincy positions.

    And yes: if you think that state school principals and their boards and parents and teacher associations, and the teachers reps at the school (all have a say in whether the school should have a chaplain or not – usually all are consulted and discuss the possible appointment of one) – if you think that they are all secretly out to convert the unsuspecting and gullible families of the school community… then I would answer and say “It is definitely far fetched”.

  26. AR

    And who was the first braindead apparatchik to come out spouting drivel about resuscitating the school chaplain madness?
    Step forward Peter “Garrett” – if ever there were an example of the cerebral cauterisation effect of religion, esp the ‘born again’ strain, it is he.
    Nice to learn the the last Census shows the largest group is the NON RELIGIOUS, no matter what the Flying Spaghetti Monster is proferring.

  27. Jim McDonald

    Bernard, An article on the Constitutional implications for recognition of Local Government in the Consttitution and you don’t mention the Greens’ campaign – http://greens.org.au/content/time-australian-government-recognise-local-government-constitution – and earlier statements by Bob Brown? Have a late night last night?

  28. Steve777

    “..the Howard government’s internal advertising committee illegally spent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars handing large WorkChoices marketing contracts to Liberal Party mates”

    Funny, I don’t remember seeing that in the telegraph or the Oz.

  29. Venise Alstergren

    What an extraordinary position Australia has got itself into. The Constitution states that we are free to select our own religion, or no religion at all. While, at the same time, parents and/or interested purveyors of religion are free to force feed our children any old religious tripe by people unqualified to teach a flea how to jump, let alone the budding intelligence of young children.

  30. Scott

    There is not a lot of importance placed on the constitutionality of local government in this judgement.
    Scripture Union Queensland is actually listed as a corporation, not an arm of local government.

  31. sottile6

    The Chaplaincy program in Queensland is a farce. The scripture union is the LNP at prayer and has been in charge of the chaplaincy program here. At the state primary and secondary schools my children attend the fundamentalist Assembly of God are now in paid positions evangelising just the same as they did before the chaplaincy program without government money. This is in inner city Brisbane. I suspect that they are getting a free kick in many communities throughout South East Queensland and evangelising as much as they can get away with in any given place. Parents mostly do not know who they are or what they are doing in schools.

  32. Scott

    In the judgement, it says that the chaplains must adhere to a code of conduct

    “School chaplains must abide by the NSCP Code of Conduct (“the Code of Conduct”) in the course of providing services under the program”

    A section of the Code of Conduct is also provided….

    “School chaplains will deliver services to the school and its community through:
    providing general religious and personal advice to those seeking it, comfort and support to students and staff, such as during times of grief;
    supporting students and staff to create an environment of cooperation and respect, promoting an understanding of diversity and the range of religious affiliations and their traditions;
    respecting the range of religious views and cultural traditions in the school and the broader community and also respecting the rights of parents/guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children is in line with their own convictions;
    working in a wider spiritual context to support students and staff of all religious affiliations and not seeking to impose any religious beliefs or persuade an individual toward a particular set of religious beliefs”.”

    Doesn’t seem too fundamentalist to me. Even one of the judges commented on this in the judgement

    “In ordinary speech a “chaplain” is the priest, clergyman or minister of a chapel; or a clergyman who conducts religious services in the private chapel of an institution or household. Those who are “school chaplains” under the NSCP’s auspices fall outside these definitions. Their duties in schools are unconnected with any chapel. They conduct no religious services. Perhaps those supporting validity committed an error in calling the NSCP a “chaplaincy program” and speaking of “school chaplains”. The language is inaccurate and may have been counterproductive. Some vaguer expression, more pleasing to 21st century ears, like “mentor” or “adviser” or “comforter” or “counsellor” or even “consultant”, might have had an emollient effect. The plaintiff must have found the words “chaplain” and “chaplaincy” useful for his contention that the NSCP was void under s 116. “

  33. sottile6

    If that is the stated role in schools then why can’t it be performed by qualified psychologists with an expansion of the school counselling services? I think the truth is that fundamentalist Christians are much cheaper to hire. I’m sure that their purpose is to be seen to be good Christians which is in itself a form of evangelism. I am sure that most of them are good people but I am also sure that they see their role as an evangelising one, whether it is explicit or implicit. I still do not want my child given pastoral care or counselling by a fundamentalist of any kind as their world view is so very different from mine. Chaplaincy is an excuse not to provide a more qualified service.

  34. James K

    Sottile6 – you have every right not to have your child get counsel from a chaplain. Two things:
    – no school has a chaplain against their wishes
    – and in schools that have them, individual families can and do say “my child will not ever go to the chaplain”. (Some fundamentalist Christians families have even signed up for “no chaplain” visits for their kids, because they do think the chaplains are “Christian” enough!)

    There are differences between the states. ACCESS who place most chaplains in Victoria are not fundamentalist, but Scripture Union who seem to place most of them in Qld are further along that spectrum up there. (Mind you… Qld-ers…. they seem a lot more conservative in so many ways that this is not such a big surprise).

  35. James K

    One more thought: of course welfare workers and psychologists in schools can offer good counsel and that is much needed and valuable, but there are still over 80% of the community who align to some kind of religious affiliation if only on the census every 5 years, or if for baptisms, weddings and funerals… about 65% say they are Christian, and then others are Jews, Hindus, Muslims, etc. For those who dont have any religion, this is of course a point of contention and frustration. But the reality is that when people are suffering or in pain, if people are frightened at the future, or suffering loss… sometimes they welcome someone saying “would you like me to pray for you?” Sometimes they get comfort and encouragement from spiritual counsel.

    In times like that a welfare worker or a school psychologist is not allowed to offer such things. But a chaplain can – if it is under the guidelines and within the protocols of their work. If it is not pushed on anyone. If it is there when appropriate to the family at hand…. then it is not a bad thing.

    I might or might not think it helps – depending on my own world view. But if it helps someone else, then it can be a good thing. Not everyone has to be like me. And so long as the chaplains are not trying to make everyone else “just like them” – they fill a role that welfare workers cant fill.

  36. Liz45

    @MARILYN – I agree with you. I didn’t send my kids to a State school to have religion forced down their throats. If I did, there was a catholic school a bus trip away. Because of my experiences via a Catholic school, I didn’t want them badgered by god botherers, who don’t have to answer to anyone – even today! The sexual abuse of kids and how they and their families are treated is a sad example of this.

    @SOTTILE6 – I also agree that the reason why Psychologists aren’t employed in schools is due to money. Are school Counsellors still in schools? They were in the late 70’s early 80’s? At least they’re trained in these things. If the Chaplains were only helping kids with problems or those suffering grief or trauma OK, but I think too many are abusing their position, and using their environment to drum up business! I reject that, totally!

  37. Stephen

    For five years straight, Rudd-Gillard Labor has slavishly followed Howard’s school funding model and school chaplain model. In my language that’s a slashing ‘win’ for the Howard Government not a ‘loss’. Anyway, the nation’s first law officer immediately repudiated the High Court decision, and reaffirmed the chaplains.

  38. sottile6

    I think you would find that Queensland is a very divided place politically. The problem is that I am reporting facts about my personal experience with religious fundamentalism in state schools and that has nothing to do with the conservatism of Queensland. The part of Brisbane in which I live has never in its history had a conservative member of state or federal parliament so why should our children have anything to do with a fundamentalist Christian chaplain if that is your reasoning? Can we please discuss the right of parents not to have the religious ideas of other people foisted on our children? I am very well aware of the naivety of teenagers who are for the most part very conformist and I resent fundamentalist Christian chaplains being seen as suitable role models by those teenagers. Of course my children do not have anything to do with the chaplain but what about vulnerable children who will be influenced by these chaplains? ( This is not code for sexual abuse but I am referring to ideological influence) If people want religious guidance for their children they should send them to a religious school. State schools should not have any government funded religious positions. In Queensland schools there are 30 minutes of religious instruction per week which is a parental choice. I think this is more than enough religious intervention in State schools.

  39. Liz45

    @STEPHEN @SOTTILE6 – Agreed! In fact, I’d be more than happy if the Govt funded indigenous people to teach kids about their history, languages etc. I’d have liked my kids to learn the indigenous language of the tribe who lived in our area. Some schools in NSW do have these programs, and I think it’s great. Religions have too much power, considering the lerks and perks they receive – no rates, no taxes etc? Makes me sick!

    As for the clergy? I recall my eldest son asking me once if he could be ‘UN-baptized’? I was very young at the time???

  40. Sancho

    JamesK is running the now-standard defence of chaplains: there’s no reason to have a non-religious counsellor in a school when instead you can have a religious missionary whose explicit intention is to convert children to their faith, but will give a sincere promise not to.

    To put JamesK’s assurances in context, let’s take a look at what the chaplain organisations have to say:

    [“I am first and foremost an evangelist. It is that desire to see young people come to know God and be in relationship with Jesus that drives my leadership of ACCESS ministries. … [School chaplaincy] is a great way of … making new people for God.”]
    • Evonne Paddison, CEO, ACCESS Ministries

    [“We aim to express God’s Good News to children, young people and families, not only in words, but also by building caring relationships with them”]
    – Scripture Union website

    [“We are committed to teaching basic Christian truths as an essential part of evangelism.”]
    – Scripture Union website

    [“We are committed to working in ways that reflect our beliefs, in appropriate cooperation with organisations and institutions, such as schools, that welcome us.”]
    – Scripture Union website

    [“We encourage people to read [the bible] so that they come to repentance, faith and obedience to God and worship”]
    – Scripture Union website

    And to top it off, here’s the Scripture Union Australia vision statement:

    [“Introducing young Australians to Jesus, the Bible and the local church”]

    This is the same mob who arranged for a creationist crusader to give a lecture at a public school.

    Contrary to claims that the program is welcome and not controversial, the Queensland Ombudsman had 277 complaints about chaplains up to July last year, and presumably more since. Here’s what a spokesman for the Office said:

    [“[The ombudsman’s] office is not convinced that the current complaint handling procedures have been adequately designed to capture and accurately monitor complaints about the chaplaincy program”]

    Possibly the saddest part of all this is that JamesK et al won’t just come out and declare support for government-funded religious conversion programs, but instead try to hide their faith and force it on children by stealth.

    I’m sure Jesus would be impressed.

  41. Sancho

    Moderation queue is long on a Sunday night, it seems.

  42. Liz45

    I read during the weekend that a priest in the US has been found guilty of ‘allowing child s*x abusers continued access to children by not reporting them to the police etc. He faces a jail sentence of several years. I await the same sort of legal action in this country? Then we’ll have another look at what organisations are worthy to enter school premises, and what their history has been re child protection?

    When my children were at school, I made it very clear, that if there were behavioural problems or health issues or areas of any concern, I wanted to know about them immediately. I did NOT want any visitor to the school, including school Counsellors involved without my knowledge. IF I had children at school now, I would insist on the same thing. I certainly would not agree to them being ‘counselled’ by a person representing any religious body. I’d include incidents such as the tragic death of a class mate, family member, or an earthquake or any world tragedy that may cause upset and distress!

    JamesK – your defence of so-called school counsellors has been answered by the response of SANCHO above! I’ve also heard these claims via talkback radio and TV interviews – ABC? Not shock jocks!

  43. Venise Alstergren

    LIZ: Don’t you love all this religious outrage from the general public about the wholesale sodomising of small children by the Catholic, and one other, Church?

    One of the vilest excuses I’ve ever encountered was given by a Priest caught astride a ten year old boy. When asked FFS? by the immediate superior the priest explained that he was attempting to give the child a practical example of how Christ felt, spreadeagled and nailed to a cross. The Priest got away with it.

  44. Liz45

    @VENISE – Yes! I urge all here to read Geoffrey Robertson’s book ‘A Case of the Pope’ and another co-written by Chrissie Foster about the r**e of two of her three daughters from the age of 5? Upon reading the first, I was incensed to learn that far from the catholic church having a ‘new’ direction, the practice of threatening alleged victims is still going on. Further, upon reading the second book, I learned of the (alleged) role played by one Cardinal Pell – also threatening and lacking any semblance of common humanity, decency and concern. Nothing’s changed, nothing at all!

    Then, there’s the revelation that at least 40 victims in Ballarat, Victoria have committed suicide over the years. How many is the real number is horrifying to contemplate! I found out rather late in my life that two of my siblings were also abused – neither took any action! I suspect there are thousands more just like them. I recall Geoffrey Robertson’s assertion via his book, that Australia could’ve been a target due to our isolation from the rest of the world, which possibly resulted in more children being abused than anywhere else. I suspect, that lots of these criminals were probably sent here from Ireland? Who knows?

    A Royal Commission is the only way to really find out the history of these disgusting and at times lethal crimes. The Victorian Govt opted for a Parliamentary Inquiry, but a few of those nominated have no legal experience at all, whereas a RC, while expensive does have experienced legal people throughout the process. That’s what should be done I believe!

    I haven’t heard any news re the Inquiry, which only confirms what advocates were fearful of – that the cc has lots of money, and so have every possibility of having too much ‘clout’ – out of the public eye, unlike a RC which is open to the public. Unless the Australian people view a proper process in action, this issue will keep on smoldering, with flare ups etc as more people either speak out, or sadly, lose all hope, including a desire to live! Very sad indeed! It makes me fume!

    Are Chaplins subject to the same investigative processes as other volunteers who work with children and/or people with intellectual disabilities – as I and many others have? I passed with flying colours I hasten to add!

  45. James K

    My defense of chaplaincy has been based on the Victorian experience, not the Qld experience. I acknowledge that Qld has a more fundamental organisation placing chaplains than Vic, but noone seems to be noticing that.

    None of the critics of chaplaincy are even acknowledging differences between different states.

    I for one would never live in Qld… way to conservative for me.

    But my points remain standing, and no one has been able to refute them:
    1) No school in the country has to have a chaplain – it is up to the schools to decide if they want one, if they keep them, if they have them at all
    2) In schools that have them, no family has to see them
    3) in schools that want non-Christian chaplains (eg Jewish schools, Muslims schools) they can have chaplains that reflect the beliefs and ethos of their school.

    Folks… there are bigger issues to fight. Like child s_x abuse from some priests, some doctors, some psychologists, etc…..

  46. Liz45

    @JAMES K – A heap more priests than doctors and psychologists. The big difference being, that when doctors and psychologists abuse anyone, the police step in. Carers must report any evidence or suspicion of abuse. Priests however are protected by the catholic church, who it would seem, aren’t like the rest of us. They have the right to ‘investigate’ themselves and ‘deal’ with the complainant/abused person directly, which too often results in threatening behaviour, having to sign non disclosure legal documents etc, while the person whose in charge of such complaints has as their first priority, to eliminate any scandal they can. THAT is the reason why so many of us are outraged!

    Glossing over this in the manner you have just done is a disgrace! You are no better than the hierarchy of said church! Shame on you!

  47. Liz45

    Correction – “who’s” not “whose” as I wrote!

  48. James K

    Liz45 – I certainly agree that when anyone offends against children in such ways, the police should step in: priests included. I would never want to gloss over the enormity of the situation.

    But I will not be naive and believe that only priests do such horrid things. Or even that they do them ‘more often’ than doctors, or child psychologists, or boy scout leaders, or school teachers, etc etc. I cant prove how many in any profession do such things (perhaps you can, and I am happy to stand corrected), but are we going to pretend that it is mostly done, or only done, by priests? Are we going to pretend that it is not covered up sometimes in other organisations as well?

    And to be honest… this topic is about school chaplains… not priests in churches, not Sunday School teachers, not s_x offenders… and to date, no school chaplain has ever had any charge against them about interferring with a child. (Lets hope and make sure that never happens). Dont catagorise all kinds of religious workers of varying stripes because of the offences of some in their church denominational structures. It is using a horrid emotive topic to colour a different discussion.

    Our different discussion can of course talk about the safety of the child. School chaplains must always have that as a priority. As must teachers, and volunteer helpers in any school program. But dont pretend that chaplains are s-x offenders hovering around waiting to strike. it would be as silly as saying that volunteer canteen staff are such.

    It is below your usual level of reflective thought, to mix the issues like this. (I often agree with you Liz).

    This issue – if we really want to have a good debate – is more about church and state and how much or how little they should intersect.

    And all that to say: the issue of child s-x offenders is a worthy topic and a vital topic to address in our community. It is just not the original focus of this discussion right here. On this page.

  49. Liz45

    @JAMES K – I say it because it’s true. I ‘pick on’ the catholic church because the facts speak for themselves. When you or anyone else points to the fact that I and many others are wrong, then I’ll think again. There’s books, articles, TV documentaries etc- too much evidence to be ignored, or be watered down due to feeling uncomfortable about the facts.

    I’m sure there are nice people who do good works in all religions, BUT, I for one would not have anything to do with the catholic church while ever those at the top continue in their shameful and in my view, criminal behaviour. Their agents who remain silent are of equal blame. If I don’t tell the police about a bank robbery, I can be charged with aiding and abetting, or ‘guilty after the crime’ or perverting the cause of justice; or of with holding vital information etc. When the Law insists that priests, cardinals etc have to do likewise, then I’ll stop complaining about the present perhaps, but not about unresolved crimes of the past!

    At least 40 suicides in Ballarat? Point me to another example with the same story as its focus. There isn’t one! I loathe the peddlers of this misery, and I don’t sanction them or their ‘agents’ being anywhere near kids! When they have the guts to rise up in outrage, maybe. I support the appointment of properly trained psychologists/trauma counsellors etc entering schools after trauma etc, not ‘god botherers’ who use their position to indoctrinate young minds!

    There’s sufficient evidence to raise concern as to the REAL intent of too many ‘chaplains’? I don’t believe that there should be any religious teaching in state schools. If parents want such an environment, then they can send their kids to a church based school – not State Schools!

    I believe that raising these concerns is relevant to this issue. YOU on the other hand would feel more comfortable if you could continue to ignore it. I don’t!

  50. James K

    Liz – I actually agree with your first two paragraphs in everything you have said.

    I do not want to downplay the tragic and horrid things some priests have done. They should be punished, of course. Those who cover it up should be too.

    I still think the problem – the same problem of child abuse – is bigger than just the priesthood and it is bigger (I believe) in many other institutions than it appears, but it has not had the coverage, emphasis or focus that priests have got. The horrible facts of the matter are that many many children who are now adults have been abused in some way or other because our whole culture was one of “ignorning, pretending not to notice, and not valuing children as they should have” for a very long time. Our whole culture, including the church. But also schools, clubs, societies, etc. One of the finest men I know (an elderly 70 year old minister of a Protestant church) was sexually abused by his female school teacher in his state primary school when he was a child. His parents did not believe him. Is he a rare exception? Or an example of a hurt generation? I think our history and culture has been riddled with this and it comes from many professions and quarters. Including (and perhaps one of the worst of all) being the church.

    Does my reflections on the bigger nature of this problem mean I am condoning or ignoring child abuse? Of course not. I dont think you would want to ignore it either if it can be shown that school principles and teachers and others in different professions have been hurting kids either.

    I want it to be exposed and dealt with whereever it occurs.

    So I am not ignoring the enormity of the problem in an institution that has systematically covered it up – not at all. But I dont want to ignore it anywhere else either. And sometimes, if someone has been hurt by one example of this horrid crime, they will have a very coloured view of the crime especially when done by others in the same institution in which they were hurt.

    In my above notes, I was trying to distinguish the difference between that issue (which this original blog is not actually about), and the very different issue of chaplains in schools. Most of whom are not Catholic and most of whom are lay people trained in counselling and or education (I am talking about Victoria). Yes – many are Christians (not all are – some are Muslims, Jews, etc if that is what their school wanted) – but the ones ACCESS place are not fundamentalists. They want to serve the community, not try to convert.

    I suspect the same cant be said for the Qld placement agency Scripture Union and I am not trying to defend them. I am trying to have a rational conversation about an issue that has moved from state funding for Chaplains in state schools, to a conversation about child s_x offenders in the Catholic Church.

    Please know that I did not mean to treat your concerns as if they are unimportant or not real. I apologise if you got that impression. I am suggesting that the current chaplaincy system is not too bad a model (I do have concerns about the state funding religious programs – but that is a different issue to what this conversation has become). But at least the current model is: voluntary, and not compulsory for any family that might not want it. If that were reversed I too would be arguing against it.

  51. Liz45

    JAMES K – You’d have to agree that the main offenders have been catholic priests. In fact, there weren’t any other religious persons for several years after while settlement here. If you read Geoffrey Robertson’s book, you’d see that he believes that the numbers abused in Australia are probably higher than anywhere else, due to our isolation. When you learn of how far back the cover ups go, the numbers are horrific.

    I do not agree with your premise that there are just as many? people in other religions, or the professions etc as are in the catholic church. Although I acknowledge, that the largest number are the fathers, step fathers etc of children in the country.

    Also, while I too am repulsed by anyone who abuses kids, including women. When women take advantage of young men – the same abuse applies in my view. But it’s just ridiculous to even suggest that women are equally involved. Like other forms of abuse to women and kids, the overwhelming number of perpetrators are men. Just read the stats on any relevant website, including your local police station.

    In my area, there are 200 calls to the police command each month – mostly by women against men. Only a fraction of women report all forms of abuse, including sexual assaults and domestic violence.

    I do hold all those who represent the catholic church and who either defend them or keep their lips sealed as sharing in the guilt. As far as I’m concerned, remaining silent over these crimes is worse than keeping quiet about a robbery or other crimes of fraud etc. Even members of my own extended family do this. I reject their position. A priest, who I’d met at a mutual friend’s place at a bar b q, took his own life when he blew the lid off an alleged pedophile ring(made up of his colleagues?) in the area. He was ostracized for his efforts, and couldn’t take it. He was an ‘ordinary bloke’ who liked a beer and did lots of good works in his community, which included troubled kids. Just one example that I know of!

  52. James K

    Again I am not looking for a fight Liz. I agree that all abuse of kids is horrid and I would never say that women offend against boys more than men against girls and boys. And the tragedy of people keeping silent (like you said: it happened a lot in families of abuse victims too) is terrible.

  53. Liz45

    No, me either! I was raised a catholic, and can recall the hold the priests and nuns had over us as kids, which explains why people defend them. I remember being a little kid and accidently eating a slice of devon out of the fridge (as you do) and then realising it was Friday. I’d be terrified of going anywhere in case I got hit by a car etc and end up dead and in hell? Awful isn’t it? Then, when it suited them, they just said it’s OK now? The same with going to Mass etc? Don’t turn up on Sunday, wow, mortal sin, then they said, it’s OK to go on Saturday night instead?

    All this is removed from the chaplain issue, but I still recall the brain washing – it was reinforced by the nuns, and at home. Priests were really treated as though they were god. It was scary really. I understand why people are too intimidated to speak out, particularly those who were abused as kids and then are terribly troubled as they grow up. The power one human being can have over another is scary. Thankfully, these days kids are not to ‘be obedient’ or else, with strangers like yesteryear! Of course, those who intend preying on young people use this brainwashing to their own ends – that’s what makes them so revolting, and why they should be locked up and the key thrown away!

    The ‘awful silence’ as I call it is also alive and well re domestic violence and other crimes. The ‘not airing dirty linen’ attitude denies people the right to speak out about their experiences. The people who gain from this are again, the perpetrators. I’m experiencing this almost 50 years after I was married. No other crimes does this factor play out. Only those that mostly have women/children as the victims/survivors. Speaking out is now encouraged, but it takes guts as it’s a ‘lottery’ as to how the stories are received. In fact, a program in NSW started by the last Labor Govt is called, ‘Staying home, leaving violence’ which allows the women and kids to remain in their homes, while the perpetrators are made to leave. At last was my response! The other way ensured that women and their kids were forced into poverty, having to set up another home, or forced them to remain in the home, and subjected to more violence. We’re getting there James, and it’s great to be a part of the change. Of course, the funding for this program isn’t very large, and only assists about 30 families a year, but it’s a start, a good start!

    I wonder how the chaplains deal with these situations. The catholic church’s attitude over many years was not to tell the woman to leave – the nonsense about marriage being a sacrament blah blah. The misogynist attitude was alive and well years ago, it still may be today. I don’t ask them, I don’t care what their view is. I do hate the idea of them having the old response to women in these circumstances, which of course directly affects the children.

    A woman in NSW, a teacher, was arrested in the last week of so for abusing a teenage boy. I abhor this crime in the same manner as the opposite situation. It’s horrific and a betrayal of trust.

  54. Venise Alstergren

    @LIZ: I’ve been looking for you. Tonight on Channel Two @ 8:30pm= “FOUR CORNERS” on the Catholic Church, its priests and the appalling cover up of the mass sodomising of small children.

    Another thing; I read this morning that in Australia the victims who do manage to bring a successful case against these Australian priests receive a pittance in damages, as opposed to the victims of American Catholic abuse.

    Also, as it has been explained to me by the legal profession, in Victoria our whole legal system was set up by the Irish. As is always the way with the former colonies, the original country, Ireland, moves forward into the twenty-first century leaving
    Victoria floundering in a sea of retrograde conservatism. I just hope that the ABC doesn’t strangle itself in its puerile efforts to appease the hard right wingism of its board members.

  55. Venise Alstergren

    LIZ “”- A heap more priests than doctors and psychologists. The big difference being, that when doctors and psychologists abuse anyone, the police step in.”” Exactly, the Catholic Church is still living at the time prior to the Reformation because it always holds itself as being above the law of we mere mortals. Just as described by Geoffrey Robertson.

    “”This is why the Vatican’s responses to the child abuse scandal, from the time of its first major exposure by the “Boston Globe’ {the American experience} in 2002, has been woeful, first in pretending that it was an entirely ‘American’ problem and then that its incidence in the Church is no different from that in other organizations, then blaming ‘gay culture’ or media malice, and never-even today-facing up to the central fact that the church, for many years under the guidance of CARDINAL RATZINGER at the CDF, (Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) had become a law unto itself, providing a concurrent system of secret proceedings under which abusive priests found forgiveness, victims were silenced and national law enforcement was frustrated.”” (Goffrey Robertson; London 2010, Penguin Books)

  56. Liz45

    @VENISE – Hi Venise. Yes, I watched 4 Corners tonight and Q&A. Monday is my favourite ABC night viewing. It was horrific – gut wrenching and typical of so many destroyed young lives. The role of the catholic church is and has been a disgrace. I agree with Geoffrey Robertson, who allegedly believes that there’s a case to charge the pope – this pope more than any others, as it was his ‘job’ to ‘deal’ with these ‘issues’ for 25 years. The role played by Pell, not only in Victoria, but Australia wide is shameful – that doesn’t sound damning enough. I recall the section of Chrissie Foster’s book, ‘Hell on the way to Heaven’ where she recounts her ‘meetings’ with Pell?

    If I go into a catholic church it’s only for weddings, funerals and christenings of those I love. I never participate in any service and I refuse to kneel down before any of these bastards. They disgust me!

    Geoffrey Robertson’s book is excellent isn’t it? I couldn’t put it down. I think I told you before, that I started highlighting the really telling paragraphs (they were all numbered) until I realised I was highlighting the whole book. The letter from the pope to the bishops etc was telling. The cc is running two ‘policies’ together – one for the public, and the other for the benefit of protecting the church from scandal. Every story has the same or similar theme, including the 4 Corners program that dealt with the sexual abuse of children with intellectual disabilities in SA. Did you watch that one? Heart breaking!

    The top priority for the catholic church has been and still is – that the biggest crime is the scandal, which must be stopped if possible, and if not, action is taken to limit the negative fallout. The victims aren’t even treated as human beings. In my view, anyone who has anything to do with an organisation like this should look at their values and responsibilities.

    It’ll only be when the ‘good people’ who still insist on belonging have the guts to stand up to the hierarchy and ‘go on strike’ like the people of Boston did some years ago, the horrific stories will continue, and children and adolescents are probably still being abused? Who’d know? Who keeps an eye on the behaviour of priests and clergy? The good people of Boston refused to give any money to the diocese until the priest or bishop or both left? A monsignor in the US will probably face 7 years prison for his role in protecting priests. Good stuff! Should be more of it I say!

    I think the only positive these days, is the fact that there are a lot of non religious teachers in catholic schools, otherwise it would still be rife. The nuns in the past had a lot to answer for too. The little girls in Victoria were (allegedly) allowed to leave the classroom with the revolting priest who ra**d them? Why didn’t they ask questions? Why didn’t they investigate where he was taking the children – (they weren’t the only ones – this priest had been r****g children since the 1940’s and up until the ’90’s – 50 years?) I’d have arrested them as accessories before and after the fact. The same would apply to P**l?

    To see people fawn all over the pope, bishops etc is repugnant to me. I’d feel the same if people behaved in the same manner to well known (civilian)criminals over the years who’d committed awful crimes of abuse. And yet, the pope is treated with respect! Last weekend’s Good Weekend in the SMH had an article on Pell. I couldn’t even bring myself to read it. Read the rest, and then into the recycle bin it went!

    Take care Venise! Are you sick of the carry on over the price on carbon etc yet? I am! It’s so repetitive and people are so damned ignorant; and the shock jocks and Abbott are still carrying on, and I want to scream! What do people listen to? Do they ever read – anything? I can’t believe the absolute nonsense coming out of peoples’ mouths. This afternoon, on ABC radio, an ABC person was talking about the tax on the profits on resources and had the hide to say that it will affect investments in the country, when evidence printed in the SMH last weekend detailed the more than doubling of investments, even in the first 3 months of this year. Where did he get his info from? Frustrating as hell it is!

  57. Venise Alstergren

    LIZ: One of the worst cases of disseminating lies was about five years ago. Somehow or other I came across a rural magazine…Weekly Times? Something like that. I went to the gardening section and there was an article on fruit, vegetables, whatever and the Labor Party got blamed for someone’s quinces not growing. This was roughly what it was on about. The worst thing I’ve ever done is not to have photocopied the article.

    Quite agree about the Pope, cardinals, etc. Every time the catholic church bleats about not having enough money to help the poverty stricken hordes of the world I feel like suggesting they flog off one of their Raphaels, or a Sistine Chapel, or two, to fund the exercise. Which, if they were genuine, they would do.

    Another thing which earns my hostility is the airy dismissal of the crimes of the catholic church by saying “Well, other people did the same thing” Which is exactly what James K said in one of his comments to you. Anyhow, since when did two negatives become a positive?

  58. James K

    Not sure if this conversation is still alive or not…

    All of the above: sad but true. Horrible things covered up; people hiding their guilt and crimes deep in their institution that protects them…. tragic – even evil.

    Liz: you asked in passing if chaplains deal with this kind of thing. I can only speak for Vic ones but yes, it does come up (and I am sure it would in other states too). And when it does come up, they are obligated to report, just like teachers are. The child’s safety is always paramount. They are carefully chosen (in Vic, again, I cant speak for other states), if placed by ACCESS especially, and they are required to have all the normal “checks” in the process: police checks etc.

    I hurt for the huge number of people who have suffered at the hands of priest, other professionals, and sick family members. Their pain must be horrific and never completely overcome.

    Betraying a child is one of the very worst things a person could ever do. And the so called “followers of Jesus” who hurt children are the worst of the worst. They have neglected to weigh the words of the one they supposedly follow himself: “Whoever receives a child in my name, received me. But whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5-6). Harsh words from a gentle Jesus hey! I think he was as angry as you, and Venise, and me and lots of others, when it comes to hurting children.

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