It’s On! Writ Lodged in High Court Challenge against National School Chaplaincy Program

Received today from the High Court Challenge team:

Ron Williams v. Commonwealth of Australia

Queensland parent challenges constitutional validity of Commonwealth funded National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) in the High Court

A Queensland parent has issued writs in the High Court against the Commonwealth Government and Scripture Union Queensland, alleging the Government has breached the Australian Constitution through its funding of a chaplain at his children’s school.

Mr Ron Williams, the father of four children attending a public school in Toowoomba, argues that Commonwealth funding of the school’s chaplain breaches sections 54 and 116 of the Constitution.

The chaplain is funded under the National Schools Chaplaincy Program (NSCP), which has provided places for 2700 chaplains in schools throughout Australia.

Mr Williams argues that the Commonwealth Government failed to follow the proper constitutional requirements in funding the NSCP, and in its agreement with Scripture Union to place a chaplain at his children’s school.

The Government failed to provide the necessary legislative appropriation provisions required by section 54 of the Constitution.

Mr Williams also argues that the NSCP requires those appointed to the public office of school chaplain at his children’s school are subject to the requirement to a religious test.

That is, they must be practising Christians, regulated and trained by Scripture Union. This, he says, breaches section 116 of the Constitution which states that ‘no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public test under the Commonwealth’.

Counsel retained by Horowitz and Bilinsky to represent Mr. Williams are Mr. Bret Walker SC and Mr. Gerald Ng.

This solo constitutional challenge by Mr. Williams is receiving financial support via a public appeal to individuals at his High Court Challenge website:

Related Posts on this Blog:

Heroic or Quixotic:  The High Court Challenge Against Australia’s National School Chaplaincy Program

A Case Against School Chaplaincy – Part One:  A Fox in the Henhouse

A Case Against School Chaplaincy – Part Two:  Russian Roulette

A Case Against School Chaplaincy – Part Three:  Gay Teens at Risk from School Chaplaincy

Related Posts (Elsewhere)

David Marr (2011), Chaplains in schools are ‘inadequately supervised’, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 January

With God by their Side, Sydney Morning Herald, 30 October 2010

Jim Campbell (2010), Dad fights chaplaincy program, Queensland Times, 28 October

Compass (2010), Challenging the Chaplains (video), ABC Television, 24 October

Michael Bachelard (2010), Chaplains in Schools Challenged, The Age, 5 September

Cannold, Leslie (2010), Why are we robbing our littlies to preach Paul?, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 August

Kate Dennehy (2010), ‘God botherers’ infiltrate Brisbane high school, Brisbane Times, 15 August

Caroline Overington (2008), Genesis of a Complaint, The Australia, 5 December


Money is tight for everyone, but even by making a small contribution to the High Court Challenge you are buying a stake in Australian constitutional history.

Please note that this case is being financed by the Williams family and by public subscription.  Monies paid towards the High Court Challenge will go into a trust set aside expressly for the payment of the considerable legal fees associated with a case of this kind.  If you are able to donate, please visit the High Court Challenge website.  Donations, whether small or large, can be made by cheque or money order, direct deposit, or by PayPal using the link on the website.

Chrys Stevenson

8 thoughts on “It’s On! Writ Lodged in High Court Challenge against National School Chaplaincy Program

  1. M. Haggman

    As a parent of two kids who’ll be school age in the next few years, I’m 100% behind this. I’m glad to see it’s finally being put into motion!

  2. Zane

    I figure the government will do all they can to postpone and drag this out and wear down Mr Ron Williams. Lets hope this is sorted out soon, so may parents and people are in support of this.

  3. polly

    So glad this is coming to the fore. Enough of this nonsense. It was hard enough for my children 15 years ago to be exempted from Scripture, and I would not wish that for anyone else’s. So hard.

    Good luck to Ron Williams.

  4. Rod Blaine

    Anyone know what Ron Williams means/ meant by “We’re not about trying to get rid of chaplains. The court case is about challenging the legality of the program”?

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

      Yes. In the interview from which this quote was taken, Ron was speaking in the context of the High Court Challenge. The Challenge was not about getting rid of chaplains. It was about challenging the constitutional legality of Federal government funding for chaplains. If wishes were horses beggars would ride. What our personal opinions about chaplaincy might be has little bearing on what is possible to achieve through the law.

      We always knew that even if Ron won his case, funding could shift to the states. The HCC has the potential to damage the chaplaincy program, but it was never going to stop chaplaincy altogether.

      All of us involved in the case, including Ron, had our own personal opinions about whether chaplains should be in schools at all. But this interview was not about personal opinions – it was about the case itself. The ‘we’ refers to Ron and his legal team. In this context, Ron answered completely truthfully – the High Court Challenge was not about ‘getting rid’ of chaplains – there was not a legal argument which could have achieved this.

      Ron raised concerns about chaplaincy at his children’s school with his legal advisers, and then took their best advice on what was achievable. Getting rid of chaplains altogether was not achievable and therefore was simply not on the agenda.

      I have always said that winning the High Court Challenge will not be the end of the ‘war’ against chaplaincy. Win or lose, it was only the opening salvo – but a very good one; one that has brought a great deal of political and media attention to how ill-conceived and costly this program is. This is not the end, there is more to come. But let’s wait for the verdict and then see where the path leads.


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