A Case Against School Chaplaincy – Part One: A Fox in the Hen-House

This is Part One of a three-part series of articles. See also:

Part Two:  Russian Roulette

Part Three: Gay Teens at Risk from School Chaplaincy

“Don’t set a fox to guard the hen-house.”

You can put a silk hat on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”

“A leopard can’t change his spots.”

“Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.” – Douglas Adams

Australia’s national school chaplaincy program was introduced by the Howard government in October 2006 and was continued and expanded by the Rudd Government.  Provided at enormous cost to Australian tax-payers, the result is that over 2,000 state schools currently employ chaplains, providing the chaplains and their churches with direct exposure to approximately 720,000 children in state schools. (Overington, 2008).

A key plank of the program is that chaplains are not permitted to evangelise.*  It is passing strange, then, that the major bodies contracted by the government to supply chaplains to schools are evangelical – and expect their chaplains to conform to that religious tradition.

To me, the fundamental flaw in the national school chaplaincy program is that the government is specifically hiring evangelical Christians to go into state schools – and then telling them not to evangelise.  It’s like hiring a fox to look after the hen-house under strict instructions it’s not to eat the chickens:  the directive is neither fair to the chickens nor the fox.

Let’s consider, as a case study, the Scripture Union, a major supplier of chaplains to the nation’s schools.  Scripture Union Australia’s aims, mission statement and working principles are all strongly centred on evangelism.  Further, chaplains employed by the Scripture Union are required to adhere to its core principles and beliefs.  The Scripture Union, for example, believes – and expects its chaplains to believe – that:

“…  the Old and New Testament Scriptures are God-breathed, since their writers spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit; hence are fully trustworthy in all that they affirm; and are our highest authority for faith and life.” (Scripture Union – Aims & Beliefs)

Given this commitment to the literal truth of the Bible, one can only assume that they consider the call to evangelise as a holy commandment.  Growth Groups, an interdenominational group in the UK explains this divine imperative:

“The call to evangelise is clear from Scripture. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus gives His disciples the “Great Commission”.  In Acts 1:8, He tells them that they will be His “witnesses” (Acts 1:8) and the remainder of the book of Acts tells the story of how they spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.”

“We acknowledge the commission of Christ to proclaim the Good News to all people, making them disciples, and teaching them to obey him.” (Growth Groups)

Of course, Tim Mander, CEO of Scripture Union Queensland, and spokesperson for SU Australia,  insists that all chaplains work under Education Department guidelines.  Mander tells us, reassuringly, that:

“One aspect [of the school chaplaincy program] is that the chaplain cannot proselytise or evangelise and we respect and adhere to that.” (Percy, 2008)

Curiously, this directly contradicts a directive from a Scripture Union International policy paper which says, in part:

“We believe that our mandate is to bring children and young people into the life of established churches by programs that serve them in environments in which they feel comfortable.”

“We believe that, in the case of families that are not Christian, the evangelism of the whole family rather than of children in isolation is still our objective. However, if this cannot immediately be realised, we believe that God still calls us to evangelise children themselves.” (Scripture Union International, 2005)

While the Scripture Union says they resist approaches that treat children as ‘targets’ of evangelism – how can this be reconciled with their stated mandate to evangelise?

The truth is that they can’t and don’t reconcile these conflicting directives.  It is clear from reading anything written by the Scripture Union that their entire raison d’être is to be a recruiting agency for Jesus.  This is their primary purpose in our state schools and there should be no mistake about it.

Of course the chaplains’ missionary zeal is circumscribed, somewhat, by the government’s guidelines –  but only while they are dealing with the children within the confines of the school grounds.  That’s why there is an all-out effort to encourage the children to participate in out of school activities where they are removed from the scrutiny of parents and teachers and the ‘grooming’ process can be continued.

“The good news is that God is doing some incredible work through the ministries of SU Queensland. School chaplaincy, camps and missions are exposing thousands of young people and children to the good news of Jesus every year.” (SU News, June 2006)

“In Australia, SU operates in every state and territory and mobilises around thousands of volunteers each year to engage young people and families in holiday programs at beaches and in urban or rural townships, camps, secondary and primary schools, through sports, recreation, outdoor education and school chaplaincy.

SU’s ministry brings us into contact with hundreds of thousands of children, young people and families per year making SU one of the largest mission movements to children and youth in the world. But what drives us is a desire to see lives transformed. We are serious about making a difference.” (Scripture Union Australia – About SUA)

“With urgency. We intentionally make opportunities to present life-giving messages that invite children to respond positively to Jesus. Our approach is urgent because children will, by their nature and because of the world in which they live, turn away from God unless they are evangelised and nurtured.” (Scripture Union International, 2005)

According to a 2006 Scripture Union newsletter:

“Last year alone, over 2500 kids went on SU Queensland camps where many committed their lives to Jesus for the first time.”

Don’t tell me that those children – many of whom are now recruited through SU’s chaplaincy programme – weren’t ‘targets’ for evangelism.

Of course, it is up to parents whether to allow their children to be involved in these out of school activities.  But, as Ron Williams of the Australian Secular Lobby explains:

“Chaplains go on excursions and on school camps, so if you want your children to have no exposure to the chaplain, you’ve ‘volunteered’ for them not to go to the museum or the bush camp.” (Williams in Potts, 2010)

SU’s mission is clear.  Groom the children within the schools, win their friendship and the trust of their parents and then invite them to a fun adventure camp.  Get the unchurched and non-Christian kids to put pressure on their parents to let them attend.  Once you have the children in your care, and beyond the jurisdiction of the Education Department and their parents, work on them to ‘give their lives to Jesus’.

Now, some may take exception to the use of the word ‘grooming’.  After all, isn’t that what pedophiles do? Yes it is – and I use the word deliberately.

While I am not suggesting that chaplains (in general) are grooming children for anything more than religious conversion, it is impossible not to see the similarities between the two approaches.

In his article, “Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis”, former FBI agent Kenneth V. Lanning identifies the stages involved in a pedophile’s grooming process (Stang, 2008):

  • The first stage is to identify a child who is vulnerable in some way – often the same kind of ‘at-risk’ child that may be ‘targeted’ by a chaplain.  One of the best ways to do this is for the pedophile to spend a lot of time in places like ‘your child’s school and playground’ – exactly the place where the chaplain identifies children who may be open to conversion.
  • The second stage is to win the trust of the child and his parents in order to gather as much information as possible about the intended victim.  Similarly,  we have the kindly chaplain listening to the child’s problems, playing sport with them in the playground, maybe visiting the parents to discuss the child’s welfare.   We also have the use of the intimate and familiar term ‘Chappy’.
  • In the third step, once the pedophile knows a little about his victim, he steps into that child’s life to fill a need.  For example, a lonely child might receive extra time and attention, and a child who feels unloved might receive unconditional affection – exactly the kind of attention provided by a chaplain.
  • The fourth step in the grooming process is to lower the child’s inhibitions about sexual matters.  Of course, the chaplain (generally!) doesn’t do this, but taking a child on a camp where all the ‘cool’ counsellors pray publicly and give testimonies about how Jesus made them happy and successful and confident may certainly lower a child’s inhibitions about following a religion.
  • The fifth stage for a pedophile is the overt sexual abuse of the child, often resulting in marked changes in personality and behaviour.  Again, the correlation with chaplaincy is the successful religious conversion of the child  – an event specifically designed to result in marked changes in personality and behaviour.  Indeed, a stated aim of the evangelical Christian is to ‘change lives’.  And what else can we expect when a child is finally convinced to accept the premise that they are a sinner whose only chance at redemption is to live in the humble service, and in accordance with the moral (or immoral) precepts, of a supernatural deity?

In light of the above, consider the following video from SU Australia.  There is no denying that, in many respects, it is a ‘good news’ story,  and I am absolutely, unequivocally not implying that the chaplain or any of the camp counsellors are pedophiles. The correlation here is the process which is employed.   This process becomes very obvious in “Jarred’s Story”:

The evangelistic agenda is carefully avoided in the Jarred video, but for more insight into the SU Connect camps mentioned in the story, consider this:

“Keanu Schubert is 16 and lives in one of Brisbane’s headline suburbs. Now in Year 11, Keanu came to Connect in Year Nine – “pretty much a mess”. “There was not a lot of good stuff happening,” said Keanu. “I was close to doing things no one should think about.” One the first expedition Keanu made friends among boys he described as his school enemies. Part of his transformation included hearing about Jesus and becoming a disciple. He’s now connected to a number of church youth groups in the Springwood area.” (Journey Online – Queensland Uniting Church, 2008)

Further, training literature from SU Connect provides advice on how to engage children into talking about the Bible by using movies such as “The Matrix” or by talking about football. (Knowle Parish Church – Leaders Resources)

Make no mistake – religious conscription is at the very heart of everything Scripture Union does.  My issue is not that the children are being helped, but that they are being helped at a price by people with an agenda.  Indeed, sounding very much like a fox who’s been given the keys to the hen-house, SU’s CEO, Tim Mander admits:

“To have a full-time Christian presence in government schools in this ever-increasing secular world is an unbelievable privilege. Here is the church’s opportunity to make a connection with the one place through which every young person must attend: our schools.”

You can almost hear him salivating at the prospect of all those young, unsaved souls.

Now, with all this talk of foxes in hen-houses and wolves in sheep’s clothing and pigs in top hats, I must call a pause here to say, perversely, that I don’t think that the chaplains, themselves, are bad people.  In general, I believe, they are kind, sincere, enthusiastic, loving people with a genuine desire to help the kids in their care.  I also don’t dispute the fact that, in providing a friendly ear and some much needed attention for at-risk kids, they may fulfill an important role.  I don’t question, at all, the value of having someone in the school who has the time to play sport and ‘hang out’ with the kids and listen to their problems.  I don’t question that taking ‘at risk’ kids on adventure camps does wonders for their self-confidence and discipline.  What I question is why religion is brought into this process.  Why are evangelistic Christians, (often with no formal qualifications), who have an agenda which clearly goes beyond friendship and support, providing these services?  If our children need counseling and advice from adult mentors, surely these should be qualified people who have no agenda other than to assist the children in their care. If school counselors are less effective than chaplains because they’re not out in the playground with the kids – get them out in the playground!

State schools should provide a religion-neutral environment for children with parents of all faiths and no faith.  It is not sufficient to say that the Christian chaplain is ‘non-denominational’.  The act of placing an evangelical Christian chaplain into a school and telling them not to evangelise is unfair to both the chaplain and the children.  It places the chaplain in the position where they have to answer to two masters. When ‘God’ is telling you to spread the gospel and that children who are not ‘saved’ will burn in hell for eternity, and the Education Department is telling you that you mustn’t ‘target’ children for conversion – which ‘master’ do you think a good, evangelical Christian will listen to?  If you sincerely believe that, without conversion, a young person you care for will suffer eternally, how could you not find ways to defy government protocols or at least find ways to circumvent them?  And, indeed, this is exactly what chaplains do.  As we have seen, even if they have to take care what they do and say within the school, they use their position ‘strategically’ (SU’s own word) in order to entice the children into out-of-school activities where they, or other Christian agencies they work with,  are not constrained by Education Department policy.

For Christians reading this article, consider how you would feel if, instead of placing Christian chaplains in state schools, the government decided to employ Muslim counsellors whose role was to get close to the children, identify those ‘at risk’ and then encourage them to go to Islamic adventure camp where they were encouraged as part of a ‘long term programme’ to convert to Islam and accept the Koran as the true word of God.  Would you be arguing then that there is ‘no harm’ in bringing religion into state schools?

Chaplains are not evil, but they have no place in state schools.  You cannot place an evangelistic Christian into a state school and expect them not to create opportunities to evangelise.  They are compelled by their religious beliefs to do so.  Chaplains should not be put into that position and parents should not have their beliefs (or lack of belief) undermined by someone within the school whose primary aim is to entice their children into adopting a particular narrow, fundamentalist, literalist, Christian ideology.

It’s not fair to put a fox in a hen-house and tell him he’s not to eat the chickens while he’s in there.  You cannot expect him not to follow his innate compulsion to eat chickens.  Even if you happen to find a fox with remarkable self-control, a clever fox will simply invite the chickens to step outside – perhaps for a ‘really fun’ adventure camp –  and eat them then.  He is then able to claim, quite honestly, that he complied absolutely with the directive not to eat the chickens in the hen-house.  The fox is not evil.  You can’t blame the fox for doing what a fox does.  The blame lies squarely on whoever decided that it was a good idea to put a fox in a hen-house and direct him not to act like a fox.

Chrys Stevenson

This is Part One of a three-part series of articles. See also:

Part Two: Russian Roulette

Part Three: Gay Teens at Risk from School Chaplaincy



8 August 2010: The Prime Minister, Ms Gillard, will today announce an allocation of $222 million to boost the number of chaplains in schools by more than one-third, which would mean about 3700 schools will be covered under the voluntary scheme introduced by the Howard government.

Clarification from Australian Secular Lobby

*”A key plank of the program is that chaplains are not permitted to evangelise.”

Although this is generally true, Hugh Wilson of the Australian Secular Lobby provides the following clarification:

It depends which programme you are talking about. DEEWR prohibit proselytising, but are silent on evangelising, but EQ prohibit both, so a NSCP chaplain in an EQ school cannot do either. The ASL discussed with DEEWR what they meant by ‘proselytise’, because the word is not defined by them. Within the private school section of DEEWR , there is a vague description of ‘proselytise’, and that comes out closer to EQs evangelise.  The new policy is here and says, in part:

“instruct volunteer and/or paid chaplain that s/he is not to evangelise or proselytise at any time in the delivery of chaplaincy program”

The words are defined here:

Evangelise: Engagement and dialogue with a student/s with intent to attract to a particular faith group.

Proselytise: To solicit a student for a decision to change belief system.

First-time comments on this blog are moderated but will be approved and published as soon as possible.


Further Action

Yes!  You can do something.  If you believe that the National School Chaplaincy Program is contrary to Australia’s secular principles and that chaplains (however well-intentioned) should not be placed into state schools, please support the High Court Challenge to the National School Chaplaincy Program being mounted by Ron Williams .

NSCP federally-funded state school chaplains across Queensland may: conduct Christian prayers on all-school assembly; at significant school ceremonies; hold lunchtime prayer/Bible study sessions and engage with students in the classroom, playground, school excursions, school camps and sport. Chaplains oversee and conduct Religious Instruction classes and on-campus church-designed and run programs including Hillsong ‘Shine’ which connect children with evangelistic off-campus clubs, programs and camps.

Contact with concerned parents in every Australian State and Territory reveals that occurences of the federally-funded National School Chaplaincy Program being utilised as a Christian evangelic ministry are common within the nation’s state schools.

After years of correspondence and meetings with state education and DEEWR executives as well as personal meetings with two Education Ministers and their Directors General, in 2009, a frustrated Mr. Williams sought advice regarding a possible High Court challenge to the constitutional legality of the Commonwealth providing treasury funds to the National School Chaplaincy Program. In February 2010, Horowitz & Bilinsky accepted the case.

This matter concerns more people than the Williams family from Queensland. It concerns all Australians, of all faiths and none, who support the secular ‘wall of separation’ concept concerning church and state. This ‘wall of separation’ is required to safeguard our multicultural, multi-faith  and non-faith liberal democracy that has become the hallmark of the civilised 21st century nation Australia rightfully claims to be.

Mr. Williams has established a trust account for the purpose of accepting donations to defray the considerable costs related to this s.116 ‘wall of separation’ constitutional challenge. Mr. Williams has instructed his solicitors that all funds deposited to the account are only to be applied for costs and disbursements associated with the High Court proceedings.

Considerable financial support from the broader Australian community will be required by Mr. Williams in order to meet his expected, and unexpected, legal costs. Whatever your faith position might be, this is a significant legal exercise aimed at ensuring Australia really is a secular nation-state, as our forebears clearly intended it to be.

Please secure a stake in your nation’s secular future by donating as much as you feel comfortably able to.”

Please note that funds donated go directly into a solicitors’ trust fund to be applied only to legal costs.  The money does not go to Ron Williams personally.

You could also write to or email your local Federal Labor candidate and/or the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard with your objections to the National School Chaplaincy Program and noting that the extension of this program will be a consideration in your decision on who to vote for at the forthcoming election.

Gladly’s Book Recommendations

Gladly’s favourite book store for online purchases is Embiggen Books.  If you’ve found this article interesting you may enjoy this further reading:

What Should We Believe? by Dorothy Rowe

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22 thoughts on “A Case Against School Chaplaincy – Part One: A Fox in the Hen-House

  1. john clapton

    What you have said, Gladly, is an accurate commentary on Scripture Union, particularly in Queensland, but only at an organisational level. They cannot get around the Code of Conduct requirements that prevent evangelism in the school context. So, as far as the school chaplaincy program goes, SU has to operate within what might be called an operational straight-jacket that prevents them from doing what they might do in another context.

    I share your view, also, about the importance of the secular nature of our society. However, this does not mean that public institutions should be religion-free zones. The implementation of the school chaplaincy program has been voluntary (schools have had to actually apply for it) and school students and their families are not required in any compulsory way to access or utilise the services of a chaplain in as school.

    Most schools that have chosen to have a school chaplain would report to you that they add a positive value to life in the school, not because they turn the school into a church-youth group, but simply because chaplains provide another caring person to the crew of staff in schools that are concerned about student well-being.

    1. Bishop Rick

      John, sadly, you are poorly informed.

      SU get around the evangelising and proselytising ‘ban’ simply by ignoring it.

      And Ed Qld allow them to do whatever they like in our non-secular schools.

      How else do you explain the plethora of SUPA Clubs and JAFFA Clubs, the Christian Clubs, the Bible readings, prayers on assembly and at graduation days, and on and on and on, not to forget the Shine for girls in schools, owned by Hillsong, that EQ knows very well leads to Shine Girl off campus?

      Plus the guff for boys, equally sexist, equally designed to recruit for Jesus.

      Both Shine and Strength are designed to shove children into their ‘correct’ roles in society, with women demure and making themselves ‘nice’ for their ‘man’ who does all the paid work and ‘cares for’ his woman (who he then calls ‘mum’).

      Try reading this:

      And this, an open letter to Gillard from the ASL:

      You say this “simply because chaplains provide another caring person to the crew of staff in schools that are concerned about student well-being”, but it is funny how the official chaplains line is that school teachers cannot be trusted, and only the chaplains can be.

      Go and read the ‘chappy’ page on the EQ school sites, the ones that bother to tell parents about it that is.

      They engage themselves in evangelising from the moment they get there. Some even take kids home with them to stay overnight at their house!

      How dodgy does that sound John?

      And it is not ‘voluntary’ as you, and all the supporters claim.

      There is no escape from the prayers on assembly, or at the graduation ceremony, or ANZAC Day when you are a student at school.

      A friend took his daughter to her Y7 prize night. The chaplain insinuated herself at the steps to the stage and gave a ‘high five’ (irritating enough that a grown adult would do that) to every child, and then said ‘Grace’ as they sat down to a supper afterwards. Not a faith school, a blasted state school!

      And no escape for student or parent from this toxic cancer let loose under the guise of ‘love’.

      My son came home from school today. yet another ‘chappie’ is starting, because they do not hang around very long, and the students were all told that he will be free to enter any and all classrooms to speak to students.

      How about that?

      A ‘Godly’ presence in the classroom, and no escape at all.

      A few years ago a different ‘chappie’ told another son of mine that he would burn in Hell for his atheist beliefs, and his Buddhist mate was ‘in the wrong religion’… how ‘loving’ is that John…how does that fit into the ‘caring sharing’ model you and SU want to paint of these shameless parasites?

      EQ have just changed the chaplaincy policy to make it harder for parents to know what goes on, and almost impossible to object to their child having contact with the ‘blessed’ chaplains.

      The school principal has the power to override parents wishes and allow primary school students to sign the ‘consent’ form.

      How ‘voluntary’ is that John?

      The consent form has been changed, again, to hide all the overtly religious activities that go on under the banner of ‘chappie’.

      Talk about complicity and sheer dishonesty!

      No, the whole programme of Christian chaplains in state schools is a total fraud, NSCP funded or not, designed by pathetic politicians desperate to glean votes from stupid people, too silly to values the proper role of the secular public school in a democratic society such as we try to have here in Australia.

  2. Bishop Rick

    Hey John… how’s this for evangelisng and proselytising:


    The ‘chappie’ is proud of his Bible reading classes.

    I bet he is, and please don’t say it is OK because it is ‘voluntary’.

    The DEEWR rules prohibit ‘proselytising’ altogether. They do not say ‘it’s OK if they ask for it’.
    No, it says, ‘no proselytising’.

    And the EQ policy says ‘no proslyetising or evangelising’, it does not say, ‘none without permission’, it says ‘none, ever’.

    How’s this lot from NSW?

    John and Trish are hard at it, digging themselves into the life of the school by attaching themselves to the ‘dysfunctional’ families and pushing them ever closer to the ‘Hope’ offered by the NSCP scam, far from prying Sydney eyes: https://genr8.worldsecuresystems.com/CustomContentRetrieve.aspx?ID=174418

    Here is ‘Tim’ beavering away in Moree and working as a ‘counsellor’ in defiance of the NSCP rules:

    Note how they are unable to distinguish between the ‘ministry’ they run in a church, and the provision by Crean of NSCP funding to turn schools into another ‘ministry’.

    I have an important ministry in the school currently as we have no school counsellor, so I have been offering many students my support and someone to talk to. I also have a strong ministry with indigenous students at Moree.

    Here is Rachel, who looks after ‘kids’ that are ‘sad’, no doubt because their parents are atheists and have taught them nothing about ‘The King’: https://genr8.worldsecuresystems.com/_webapp_173981/Rachel_McKinnon

    Please pray that God will provide a church that is willing to run ‘Kids Hope’ at the school. The school has been very interested for some time, but no churches have yet agreed to partner with us.
    – Praise for great relationships with kids and teachers.
    – That “The Friendship Tree” and ‘Homework Club” will provide real support to the children who most need it.
    – For all the children that I meet with on an individual basis, that God will bring healing and change in their lives.

    Not sure what ‘Kid’s Hope’ is? The Baptist church infiltrates schools like this one, and plants ‘Christian Mentors’ in them, to work one-on-one, as they like to say, with these ‘sad’ children to bring them ‘Hope’, which is, of course, code for ‘Jesus’.

    They make ‘connections’, which is code for ‘conversion’ with the ‘unchurched’ children.

    All over Australia, the Baptists have infiltrated schools, without any legislation to curb what they do, and without any consent from anyone but the school principal required.

    Just go and read about these ‘loving’ people.

  3. DjittyDjitty

    Bishop Rick, thank you for the links you have alerted me to. I still maintain that it has never ben the intention of government to maintain public insitutions as religion-free-zones as you seem to wish.

    The plain facts of the matter are that 2/3rds of the Australian population self-identify as Christian (see 2006 Census data). This is why, despite all the red-flags you hold about about inappropriate behaviour by chaplains, they are not being howled out of schools because of “actual or perceived breaches of the Code of Conduct”.

    I share some of your anxiety about the activity of some chaplains because it seems to me that it does not reflect a sensitivity to the secular nature of the public school context. However, teenage years are a time of enquiry about life and to deny young people the option of exploring what faith might mean for them would be to deprive them of a fully comprehensive school experience. The Curriculum Frameworks of each state make clear provision for an examination of the spiritual dimesnion of life.

    You and others refer to the value of comparative religion as an area of study appropriate for public schools, and I agree that it should be done and done well, but the question I have about that is why is it not done? In its absence the existence of lunch-time groups for students, in which they have the freedom to leave the room if they disagree with anything that is being said or done, are not, in my view inappropriate.

    So far as your reference to church and chaplaincy-based web-sites, it might be worth remembering that these are directed at a Christian audience. We all shape our use of words according to who we think is listening and what we think they want to hear. While their words, and what seems to be their behaviour, seem to be unashamedly proselytising to you, the most important test is does it seem like that to the students, staff and parents of the schools in which they work. If complaints have not been raised, then there is nothing much to be done.

  4. Bishop Rick

    You are an unashamed apologist for evangelising and proselytising in public schools John.

    The question to be asked is why should a supposedly secular public school be invaded by a bunch of self-serving evangelists, who so dishonestly portray themselves as something quite different?

    There are many complaints raised but because Ed Qld is a nest of vipers from the fundamentalist churches, they simply ignore all.

    “The Curriculum Frameworks of each state make clear provision for an examination of the spiritual dimesnion of life”, indeed, but these do not require the infiltration of evanglists to produce the goods, do they? That task would be undertaken by qualified school teachers, not eager-beavers driven by a desire to serve Jesus in ‘saving the world’.

    These people have been given a free kick to recruit, that is the reason they are so keen to get into public schools.

    Our schools have survived very well without them for over 100 years, so I am not too sure why we suddenly need to chuck out a good idea, secular schools, straight through the window now.

    “We all shape our use of words according to who we think is listening and what we think they want to hear”, quite so, as far as these people are concerned anyway, yet these evangelists are not expecting ‘others’ to be reading their boastful web pages are they?

    There is no hint that they understand that they are doing the wrong thing in public schools. In fact, the way they speak, you;d have to assume they know very well that they are deliberately ignoring the policy.

    If you read the DEEWR policy, it does not suggest they are there to promote Christianity at all, but to cater to the needs of ‘all’ students.

    How can they do that, while being so busy with SUPA and JAFFA, Christian and Bible reading Clubs?

    Where is the room in that lot for a reasoned discussion with the Muslim student?

    Or the Buddhist (even if they are in the wrong religion, eh?)?

    No John, these people are pushing their own barrows, imposing themselves, forcing their way in, and mostly without any qualifications to do anything at all.

    I like this line “I share some of your anxiety about the activity of some chaplains”… it is not ‘some’ of the chaplains, it is the whole set up.

    Above all else, the sheer dishonesty of it all is simply breathtaking, especially when these people set themselves up to be ‘pillars of society’ and exemplars.

    “it has never ben the intention of government to maintain public insitutions as religion-free-zones as you seem to wish”…. well hang on here. You cannot seek to run a secular school, as public schools outside of Qld pretend they are, and allow a single religion to have a monopoly on gods within the school grounds.

    It most certainly was not the intention of previous peoples to have public schools being turned into Christian recruiting grounds, and the debates, from Christians of the day, can be found in Hansard’s all around the nation.

    One can still discuss ‘religion’ in schools, within appropriate contexts, without allowing the dogs of gods into the grounds to bay at the children therein.

    “their words, and what seems to be their behaviour, seem to be unashamedly proselytising to you”… I am not alone here you know, “the most important test is does it seem like that to the students, staff and parents of the schools in which they work”.

    In fact, that is not the ‘test’ at all. The ‘test’ is laid out in the funding policy of DEEWR, and the rather weak policies of Ed Qld.

    It is very clear, in fact, about the only aspect that is clear.

    There is to be ‘no’ evangelising or proselytising at all in schools, none at all.

    As I think I said before, no where in DEEWR or EQ policies does it say ‘evangelising and proselytising is OK with permission’ does it?

    There are few absolutes in life John, but that is one of them.

  5. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

    John said: You and others refer to the value of comparative religion as an area of study appropriate for public schools, and I agree that it should be done and done well, but the question I have about that is why is it not done?”

    I’m strongly in favour of children being taught about religion in schools.

    I think every child should grow up knowing that there are at least 34,000 branches of Christianity, all of whom have different ideas about what the Bible means.

    I’d like every child to know that the Christian God is just one of thousands of Gods invented by humans to explain things they don’t understand. There have been for instance: Celtic Gods, Norse Gods, Hawaiian Gods, Roman Gods, Greek Gods, Hindu Gods, Pagan Gods, Finnish Gods, Sumerian Gods, Asian Gods, Chinese Gods, Japanese Gods, Aztec Gods, Babylonian Gods, Himalayan Gods, Native American Gods, Inca Gods, African Gods, Mayan Gods, Phoenician Gods, and Egyptian Gods to name just a few. They should be asked to consider why one God is more credible than any other.

    Further, I believe children should know that the longevity of belief in a God does not mean that it is real. Buddhism and Hinduism, for instance, have survived longer than Christianity and the Egyptian gods were worshipped for longer than the Abrahamic God. And yet, Christians repeatedly assert that the Abrahamic god must be the true god because of his longevity. Children should be asked to critically analyze that claim.

    Children should be taught about the Bible. They should know that credible theologians agree that the gospels were not ‘eye witness’ accounts but written long after Jesus, reputedly, was crucified. They should be taught that the gospels have major contradictions and be asked to consider whether a work that is supposedly infallible would contain such errors. They should also be taught that the Bible and science differ significantly on some very major points and that, whereas scientific method and observation allows us to prove some things beyond reasonable doubt, the Bible does not.

    Children should certainly be taught how the Bible has been edited, mistranslated and intentionally changed for political purposes over the past 2000 odd years and how it has been used to rationalize some of the bloodiest chapters of human history. They should know that the Bible has been used to excuse slavery, racism, sexism and homophobia. They should know that the Bible was also used to excuse the theft of lands from indigenous people.

    Children should be taught about missionaries. How they disrespected the languages and cultures of indigenous races and imposed their views upon them. How they brought diseases which wiped out entire populations. They should be taught how, in Australia, missionaries were complicit in wiping out Aboriginal languages and cultures and from removing children from their families, resulting in the stolen generations.

    Older children should know that children who were brought to this country during the war and placed in Christian orphanages were beaten and sexually abused by the good Christians who ran those institutions.

    Oh yes, I’m completely in favour of our children knowing more about religion. But, strangely, I don’t think that’s the kind of education our good chaplains or SRE teachers are likely to give them.

  6. Robert Tobin

    Children should also be taught to beware of Religion. Religion is a Mental Health Hazard and it poisons everything.

  7. DjittyDjitty

    It is true, Goodly, that there are ways of looking at religion that would not seem to commend it as a source of human well-being.

    A lot of bad things have been done in the name of one religion or another. I can hardly make an apology for that, but it does make me sad. Indeed I have been the victim of some very unchristian behaviour at the hands of bishops and priests in the church.

    However, there have been times and places where the church got it right and did good.

    It was the churches that worked to abolish child labour in the mills and mines of industrial England.

    It was churches that set in motion events that would lead to public schools. The Sunday School Movement when children were working raised the ambition for every child to become literate, and when child labour was abolished they children were then able to go to school.

    It was the churches that started trade unions to prevent the exploitation of workers in unsafe working places.

    It was churches that founded hospitals and hospices for the sick and dying.

    It was churches that founded the St John’s Ambulance services around the world.

    These are just a few examples. I only give Church-related examples because that is the religious system I know, but I have no doubt that those from other religious traditions could identify some wonderfully good things that have been given to humanity through their religious practice.

    School chaplaincy, where I live, began many years ago after two independent reviews of public education recommended that schools would benefit from the provision of such a non-teaching person in schools.

    The presence of chaplains in public schools was initially very much a gift from the local churches to the schools. Christians do not have a monopoly on altruism, nor do they get that right all the time, but there are times and places where such a gift has been given with no strings attached, purely out of a concern for the well-being of students and teachers.

    I am sure there have been times when all the things you assert about chaplaincy activities being primarily motivated by a desire to win over students to the Christian faith have happened, but there are too many testimonials out there from teachers and students who say that the caring intervention of a chaplain in the circumstances of their life made a big difference for them.

    There may be just as many tesimonials about the impact of the caring intervention of a teacher, too, but that does not diminish the positive contribution chaplains have and will continue to make in public schools.

    The only thing that will diminish the positive impact chaplains already have in public schools is if you get your wish and the program is abandoned, and all state jurisdictions close their schools to the presence of chaplains.

    Feel free to continue to rant about the bad things that chaplains may do, but don’t forget while you are doing that to think of the bad things that some teachers have done in public schools, or the bad things that some carers have done in state-run hostels and orphanages.

    All human beings are capable of doing seriously bad things, and my experience of the church over more than 50 years leads me to believe that one’s involvement in religion does not necessarily prevent one from being just as bad.

    Yet, strangely, I am not pursuaded to join such as you who would repudiate religion as a fabrication of weak-hearted people. Somehow or another, something still makes sense for me. At least that is my experience.

  8. Bishop Rick

    Come come, what rot!

    “The presence of chaplains in public schools was initially very much a gift from the local churches to the schools. Christians do not have a monopoly on altruism, nor do they get that right all the time, but there are times and places where such a gift has been given with no strings attached, purely out of a concern for the well-being of students and teachers”… the only ‘gift’ was from the state to the church, in the destruction of the secular role of the public school.

    As for your ‘examples’ of church initiated change, they are way out.

    The debate is not about weighing up the ‘good vs. the bad’ of chaplains in public schools at all.

    The debate is centred on whether or not they should be in what should be a secular public space, and the answer is ‘no’.

    It is not a shock to find that if students are treated differently, in a coercive and bullying environment, and given some more personalised attention, that they may well respond well to that extra attention.

    None of that has anything at all to do with ‘being a Christian chaplain’ though.

    It does have everything to do with ‘paying attention’ to people as individuals in a mass market, like a school.

    So, we could achieve exactly the same, without having a ‘chaplain’ there, while saving all doubts about the true purpose of letting religion sneek into public schools in such an underhand manner

  9. Ana R Kist

    @ PM DjittyDjitty It was not churches or religions it was people.
    Just the same as it was people who invented churches and religion for a means to control people and gain lands or money or oil.

    People do good and bad things churches are run by people who are good or bad delusional or sane.

    I wont bag religion as to me it is redundant and we need to move past this. Look around children have been hurt and families from men who have power issues and like to control people.

    Have you heard of the bacha bazi ? Bad people who have a sick mental health issue affecting society.

  10. Danny Stevens

    Gladly Bear forgot to mention, and it is important from the point of view of the Jared video, that chaplains are expressly prohibited from doing counselling. They are not required to be qualified and are not vetted for such abilities. Schools have councillors for that and would be better off not having some happy chappy winding the kids up, thanks!

  11. DjittyDjitty

    What is the basis of your assertion, Danny, that chaplains are “expressly prohibited from doing counselling” and what would you define as counselling? Chaplains are required to be qualified as chaplains. Some are also qualified as counsellors and psychologists and youth workers and social workers and teachers and nurses and …. shall I go on???

    Chaplains should be working alonside other helpign professionals in schools where each contributes from their own professional and competency base to work towards promoting student well-being. Talking with students who are troubled in one way or another is what they do. Is it counselling? Maybe, but generally not clinical counselling. Is it psychotherapy? Hardly.

    In the state where I observe chaplaincy I see a healthy interaction of chaplains with other professionals working in schools. They may facilitate faith-focussed activities in school in voluntary contexts such as lunch time groups, but these were happening in schools long before chaplains came on the scene – teachers facilitated such groups in my secondary school in the 60’s.

    Gladly and Bishop Rick have an absolutist view that public schools should be religion-free zones. Just as they believe that the absolutist views of Christians have no place in public schooling, I would dare to suggest that their own absolutist views must also be challenged. You can’t have one without the other. They in fact seem to me to have just as much evangelical zeal about their absolutist views as the chaplains they have seen working in Queensland schools.

    All Christians seem to be characterised in this debate as “evangelicals” – nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the examples drawn to our attention there are hundreds of school chaplains who provide their faith-based pastoral care services without any hint of evangelisation or proselyising. Barely 10% of the formal contacts chaplains have with students in this state deal with faith matters.

    There are some Christians who, like your typical Amway sales rep, sees everyone they meet as a prospect. Not all Christians are out there selling. Many simply live as they believe they should, and being in a helping profession is a common way to express that.

    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      John, the fact is that only 2.5% of chaplains have qualifications in psychology or counselling. Yet, a recent study into the National School Chaplaincy Program by Hughes and Sims (2009) found that 72% of chaplains deal with student mental health and depression issues, 50% deal with alcohol and drug use, 62% deal with physical and emotional abuse and neglect, 44% deal with students considering suicide or who are self-harming, 40% deal with issues of student sexuality and 81% deal with issues around grief and loss.

      The authors of this study also asked chaplains and principals to assess their level of effectiveness on a number of role outcomes. Alarmingly, the lowest rating given by both chaplains and principals was on the item titled: “referring students to specialist assistance”.

      You are right. Chaplains *should* be working alongside other [qualified] helping professionals but statistics show they are not.

      I have never argued that public schools should be religion-free zones. Religion has played a central role in world history, its texts are referenced in major works of literature, it is a major subject for art and an essential issue in discussing architecture. Children should certainly learn about religion and study religious texts as works of literature. But they do not need unqualified chaplains for this. Children should be taught comparative religion in school – but this should be in an academic framework and include not only religion but other major world views such as humanism and atheism.

      Neither Bishop Rick nor I have advocated evangelising atheism or humanism in schools. I would be vehemently opposed to either. A secular school should be neutral on matters of religion (and irreligion). Children should be provided with age appropriate information on religions and philosophies and be encouraged to make up their own minds when they’re older and able to make an informed choice.

      I reject the accusation that I characterize all Christians as evangelicals. This debate is not about all Christians. It is about the chaplains being supplied by organisations such as Scripture Union, Access Ministries and GenR8 Ministries.

      Scripture Union’s own literature says plainly that its primary purpose is evangelism and that it stands by the literal truth of the Bible. Chaplains employed by Scripture Union are required to share these views.

      GenR8’s CEO’s CV boasts that he was part of: “the school Crusader group and holiday camps in coming to faith in Christ. Involved in Sydney Uni Evangelical Union and led at SU Family Missions at Gerroa and Gunnedah and at Crusader conferences for senior school students. …. before studying Divinity in the UK, [he spent] 4 months in the Holy Land doing archaeology and teaching about the land and the Bible.” Sounds pretty evangelical to me! GenR8’s Operations Manager’s CV notes that she is “passionate about sharing the love of Jesus with young people and is excited to be part of GenR8’s vision for schools ministry.” A GenR8 chaplain, Dave Hall says he is also “passionate” about “the opportunities that exist in NSW to share the love of Christ in our schools especially through the SRE program but also with the more recently promoted National Chaplaincy Programme.”

      Yeah, definitely no evangelism there.

      The first line of Access Ministries mission statement says: “ACCESS ministries leads the Church in its mission to reach students and school communities in Victoria and beyond with the transforming love of God and His Son Jesus Christ.” Access Ministries reminds its members that: “that the Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed in word and deed the presence of the Kingdom of God through mission and evangelism”. Are you really telling me they don’t feel called to emulate Christ?

      Nevertheless, if your assertion that barely 10% of the formal contacts chaplains have with students in this state deal with faith matters is true – then what is the point of employing chaplains rather than say, retired teachers or nurses or anyone of good reputation to work as mentors in schools? I have a wealth of experience working with, teaching and mentoring young people, I am well known and well thought of in my local community, I have never had any trouble with the police and I have a post graduate degree – but, as an atheist, I do not qualify to work as a chaplain. Why not? I am surely equally as well qualified to give ‘non faith based’ guidance to children as a Christian. You are not suggesting that only Christians can be trusted to work with children are you? Your assertion only proves my point. Why do these people need to be Christians if dealing with ‘faith matters’ is such a small part of their role?

      Finally, the most important point is that providing funding to chaplains means less money for trained counsellors in schools. This is where funds should be directed. A 2008 study shows school counsellor to student ratios as follows: ACT – 1:850; NT – 1:2500; NSW – 1:1050; Qld – 1:1300; SA – 1:1994 (at best); Tas – 1:1800. This is shameful when $165 million has been frittered away putting untrained, unqualified people into schools to work with at risk children.

  12. Pingback: polydaidaloi.com » Blog Archive » A politician above all else

  13. Pingback: A Peebs Worst Nightmare the Hypocrisy of Faith | Ex Exclusive Brethren Agnostic/Atheists thoughts

  14. cammo (aka c2009)

    Just thought you should know that it seems you’ve inadvertently pointed the links to part 2 here to part 1.

    I’ll also add that I like what I read and will most certainly be following this blog regularly.

  15. Bren

    You might be interested to read the comments for this article (particularly at the end) where I had a debate with a self-proclaimed member of the school chaplaincy program: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/lifematters/princess-boy-sparks-gender-furore-20101101-179rn.html

    He said “Because we have a commitment to bring children to God…” Seems fairly clear to me that there is a strong evangelical component to the chaplaincy program. The writer is conforming to all your assertions above and with an explicit agenda to define how certain aspects of our society should be.

    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      Most interesting, Bren! I’ve passed on the relevant parts of the conversation to those who can use it best. 😉 Thanks very much for your vigilance! These kinds of unguarded comments are always useful and it’s great to know we have ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ out there looking for them. I think your ‘As Requested’ doesn’t quite realise how well organized we atheists are.

  16. Pingback: It’s On! Writ Lodged in High Court Challenge against National School Chaplaincy Programme « Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear

  17. Vickie

    Thank you for this article. I think you are revealing information that all parents should be aware of. In addition to this, I would suggest that tithing is a strong belief for these churches as well, and that it is possible that the motivation behind evangelism could be further motivated by money, profit.

    Once they have the children, then they believe the parents may come, then they have more people committed to tithing. My personal experience with these groups for 4 years, partly completing one of their leadership programs, has lead me to believe that their practices are unethical, and to my beliefs, not christian.


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