Press Release from the Secular Party of Australia
Governments should not promote religions in the minds of children at taxpayer expense. The Secular Party thus welcomes the finding of High Court that the Commonwealth’s funding of the National Schools Chaplaincy Program is unconstitutional.
The ruling was based on Section 61 of the constitution which requires that such expenditure be authorised by legislation. Being a Chaplain requires passing a religious test, and Section 116 requires that there be no religious test for public office. Chaplains were not found to be employees of the Commonwealth, so these grounds were dismissed.
However, if the funding NSCP funding was properly legislated, as now required under S61, then there would be increased grounds for regarding Chaplains as employees, hence such funding may well then be unconstitutional under Section 116.
Whether in technical breach of the constitution or not, the NSCP was certainly against the intention of the constitution, and against the secular principle of “separation of church and state”. This principle is being violated, just at the time we need it more than ever.
Religions are not only divisive and conflictual. They lack basis in evidence. Governments should be in the business of promoting harmony through reason and evidence-based beliefs. The NSCP was doing the exact opposite. Chaplains should now be replaced by qualified counsellors and youth workers.
John L Perkins
Secular Party of Australia