Become a school chaplain: no qualifications needed, just believe in God

28 Jun

Here is the description of the School Chaplaincy Program taken from website of the Department of Education,Employment and Workplace Relations:

This voluntary program assists schools and their communities to support the spiritual wellbeing of students. This may include support and guidance about ethics, values, relationships, spirituality and religious issues, the provision of pastoral care and enhanced engagement with the broader community.

School chaplains are not required to have any qualifications at all, in any field. Yet they are charged with the responsibility of “guiding” students through the minefields of relationships, ethics, values and spirituality.

It’s intolerably negligent of the government, and schools participating in this program,  to permit any one in a school community to “provide guidance” to school students in the complex and sensitive areas of ethics, values, relationships, and spirituality, without any training at all in these areas, or any other for that matter.

The provision of these unqualified “support” chaplains in our schools is costing us $165 million over three years.

Do we have unqualified nursing assistants in hospitals? Do we have unqualified teachers’ aides in schools?

The program overview continues:

While recognising that an individual chaplain will in good faith express his or her belief and articulate values consistent with his or her denomination or religious belief, a chaplain should not take advantage of his or her privileged position to proselytise for that denomination or religious belief.

I read this with utter incredulity. The chaplain is not required to have any qualifications, but the chaplain is permitted to articulate beliefs and values consistent with his or her denomination or religious beliefs.

As the school chaplains have no qualifications in the areas in which they are supposed to provide “guidance” for students,one can safely assume the the government doesn’t really expect them to do that. Or if the government does expect them to do that, this is a bigger scandal than that of the unqualified installers of pink batts.

Scripture Union of Queensland is a prominent supplier of school chaplains.From their website:

Working alongside other caring professionals, SU QLD Chaplains care for young people’s spiritual and emotional needs through pastoral care, activity programs, community outreach and adventure-based learning.

Most importantly, SU QLD Chaplains provide a personal point of Christian contact, care and support for students, teachers and their families within their schools.

And there we have it. School chaplains are in public schools to promote Christianity. That’s the only thing they are “qualified” to do. All the job requires is a belief in the Christian god.

It’s dangerously negligent for the government and schools to let  untrained chaplains loose in schools, giving them an entirely unearned privileged position advising students on relationships, ethics, values and spirituality. The only thing they can possibly do is advise students from a Christian perspective. In the wider world, we have a choice about who we go to for guidance and advice. Nobody forces us to go to the Christians or any other religious group. Yet in our public schools students have as their source of guidance the unqualified religious?

What happens to, say, a student struggling with their sexual identity who thinks they might be gay? Given the dominant Christian perspective on homosexuals as articulated by the Australian Christian Lobby’s Jim Wallace, which is to lovingly expel them.

The questions for Minister Peter Garrett are: why isn’t this money being used to provide more qualified counsellors in schools? Why is the government financially supporting religious activity in public schools? Why is the Minister putting children at risk by offering them guidance from people who are totally unqualified to give it?

This is a completely unacceptable situation from every perspective. Our students are entitled to qualified non-religious counselling when they’re in difficulties. To offer them religious proselytising instead is despicable.


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10 Responses to “Become a school chaplain: no qualifications needed, just believe in God”

  1. gerard oosterman June 28, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    Beware of the bearded chaplain who tells you that keeping hands under the blankets or in torn trouser pockets will forever bar you from heaven and harp-angels. It is not true.

    Like

  2. David Horton June 28, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    In many of these seemingly inexplicable decisions that go against everything the ALP is meant to stand for you can often find some trace of pragmatism, or rank opportunism, some calculation designed to wedge the opposition or squeeze a few votes among a vital group of swinging voters. Unconscionable, immoral, but nevertheless with some sense of grim real politic. This school chaplain program doesn’t even meet that smell test. It is impossible to see how it gains the Labor Party any voters at all, while losing it more among groups of normally supportive people.

    So what on earth are they playing at? Is it purely a consequence of the religiosity of Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett? But if so, why would Gillard continue and extend it? Is she trying to counteract her “atheism”, but if so the approach is doomed to utterly fail, a rejection of her own supposed principles to appease groups who would never vote for her in a million years or until hell freezes over.

    Colour me puzzled.

    Like

    • Sam Jandwich June 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

      Is Peter Garret religious?!

      Slightly off topic perhaps, but I heard something interesting on the radio this morning: Julia Gillard said something to the effect that “I know the carbon tax is unpopular but I think it’s really important so I’m going to push on regardless”. I got the impression that she has given up on the idea of being re-elected, and that she’s decided to put all her eggs into making the carbon tax her legacy (and the reason that’s funny is because she looks a bit like a chicken, don’t you think? And in the interests of showing my gender-neutrality, John Howard looks like a bonobo, hence why he spent his term in office sticking his bananas up his, hmmm well I’m glad I studied metaphors in high school!).

      However this begs the question, if popularity’s no longer important, then why stick to crazy policies like school chaplains or sending asylum seekers to Malaysia.

      I’m starting to wonder whether we’ll see a Christina Keneally-style period of getting as many ambitious programs up as possible before the inevitable holocaust. (oh no is that a Nazi reference already?!). Something to watch anyway. Maybe they could draft Christina in for that very purpose!

      Like

  3. Mikey Bear June 28, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    Vote 1 No To Chaplains.

    Like

  4. paul walter June 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    David Horton, theyve done worse. Plenty of ABC/SBS stuff on their curious relation ship with the New Brethren odd-bods and other proddie fundies. From another location, Opus Dei seems well represented in politics, also.
    Julia Gillard, you and the suburban god botherers are dithering nitwits.
    Abbott just takes it from the sublime to the ridiculous and he is a bigger humbug than the rest combined.
    Like it or not, it’s all very “volkisch”, “Mitt der Kinder”, the widow’s peaks of Australian Working Families elevated to an even higher pedestal..

    Like

  5. Steve at the Pub June 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    Chaplains: No.
    Parent approved Religious Instruction sessions: Of course.
    Chaplaincy by means of school visits by fair dinkum priests? Yes (they visit their OWN flocks in hospital, by request, school chaplaincy should be on the same basis)

    Chaplains paid for by the taxpayer? NO WAY!

    Like

  6. paul walter June 29, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    Taking up from SATP’s summary, I’d agree that there is no reason why students should not examine itro religion and philosophy, including basic concepts of elements of metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, etc, as part of a history social studies program. Why these things have not been not tackled before university continues to baffle me. And not all priests and nuns are feral; many are useful people who could slip quite easily into curricula and school organisation as counsellors and TA’s, but brain washing- nope!
    Religious/ humanities intruction- yes ( if for no better reason than to understand why decent religious seem opposed in their outlook, to other more knock about types).
    Indoctrination- no.
    This is just a ploy by the fearful of an earlier generation confronted with ideas that are difficult to reconcile with their own shibboleths. So we’ll indoctrinate the wickedness of “new” ideas out of our possessions.
    OK, the motives for defacto censorship people usually are decent at rock bottom, but are based on fear and ignorance, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to make some thing better from the underlying “pig in lipstick” base.

    Like

  7. Andrew Skegg June 30, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    Thank you for writing this piece. The NSCP has a massive contradiction and many unfounded assumptions at its core.

    Firstly it assumes religious people are more moral and ethical than those without faith by demanding the school choose the faith and denomination their chaplain shall profess. If a more suitably qualified person who happens to adhere to the wrong religion or denomination or (god forbid) has no religion at all, they are actively discriminated against because “every effort to hire a suitable qualified [religious] person must be exhausted before resorting to secular youth workers or counsellors.”

    Second, one a suitable religious person is found, they are bound by the guidelines NOT to be religious in their capacity as chaplain. This totally negates the requirements for them to be religious in the first place. Since these people were hired based on their religious convictions they do not necessarily have any professional qualifications to deal with the difficult issues kids can face. No wonder Tim Mander (CEO of Scripture Union Queensland, the largest provider of chaplains in the country) says:

    ”Our catchphrase with chaplains is refer, refer, refer, and if in doubt, refer.” – http://www.theage.com.au/national/psychologists-rap-government-over-chaplains-20110424-1dt0t.html

    This program is internally contradictory, discriminatory, divisive, and places unqualified evangelicals directly in contact with Australia’s students. It must be scrapped.

    Also visit http://bit.ly/stopnscp

    Like

    • Jennifer Wilson June 30, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

      Thank you for pointing out these fundamental flaws Andrew, and welcome. You’re right – the nscp should be scrapped and the money used to provide access for students to qualified counsellors. How did this program get up and running in the first place, one wonders? It was the Howard government, wasn’t it?

      Like

  8. paul walter July 1, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    In answer to Sam Jandwich, yes Garrett is a Christian.
    Although, I wouldn’t have thought so after watching his performance on QA, where Katter had his guts for garters a couple of weeks ago.

    Like

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