Chaplain funding issue hots up
THE place of religion in public schools has long been a contentious issue, with arguments for and against it continually debated.
And one Toowoomba father is a step closer to ceasing government funding for chaplains in state schools on the basis it is unconstitutional for the government to legislate in respect of religion.
Father-of-six Ron Williams will plead his case to have the funding removed before the High Court in May.
Local Chaplaincy Committee chairman Reverend Jeff Baills said the removal of funding would be detrimental to the committee, which relies heavily on government funding to operate.
The committee has four chaplains placed in local schools and Rev Baills said while it would be sustainable following the cessation of government funding, reductions would certainly need to be made.
“There would be some schools where chaplains would have to be removed and that will be seen in Warwick,” he said.
He said chaplains were prohibited from attempting to convert anyone to any branch of religion and said chaplains working within the local area came from a diverse religious background.
“The activities of chaplains are highly regarded by schools and families and they offer assistance with daily life issues,” he said.
“They provide the extra perspective to education that is sometimes missed within the body, soul and mind matrix,” he said.
And it is not only the schools Rev Baills fears will be adversely affected by the move. The police force, defence force and hospitals employ chaplains to provide support and assistance to those in need.
Former Warwick High School chaplain Kathy Payne said she was saddened to hear the case was headed to the High Court. She says chaplains make a substantial difference to the lives of students and the school community as a whole and fears the push to remove funding is financially motivated and not in the students’ best interests.
“It sounds like the most significant issue for those involved is the dollars, not the children and teenagers who need support,” Mrs Payne said.
“At present, I imagine chaplains are even busier than usual due to the impact of the floods and the trauma so many Queensland school children are dealing with.
“(Chaplains) would be helping to source resources and listening to and supporting young people and their families and helping to link them with community agencies that can assist them in practical ways.”
Mrs Payne said chaplains acted as an effective link between the local community and the school community and fears without them there would be a substantial gap within the school system.
She said chaplains were vital to the school system and operated closely with guidance officers, administrators and teachers.
“Who else within our school system has the time and passion to do this type of work?” she asked.