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Chaplain challenge heads to High Court

SU QLD chaplain Stuart White at Caloundra State High School. Photo courtesy of SU QLD
A TOOWOOMBA resident has challenged the federal funding of Scripture Union Queensland’s (SU QLD) School Chaplaincy in the High Court of Australia.

Atheist, Ron Williams, is supported by the Australian Secular Lobby and other Queensland groups including the Sunshine Coast Atheists.

While Mr Williams claims to have received overwhelming and heart-warming moral and monetary support from appalled
parents and concerned citizens Australia-wide, SU QLD CEO Tim Mander said, “This is a small but vocal and committed minority who are ideologically opposed to this very eff ective program that’s helping our kids.”

Six basic points of Mr Williams’ challenge centre around the legal ability of the Commonwealth to provide funding to the National School Chaplaincy Program and the “qualification” of chaplains to work within that funding agreement.

He argues that the Commonwealth is imposing a religious test as a qualification for office under the Commonwealth
in contravention of Section 116 of the Constitution.

Section 116 provides: “Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion.

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for
prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”

SU QLD claims it is significant that the case says nothing about chaplains’ access in schools.

It concerns only whether the Commonwealth may fund school chaplaincy under the terms of the current guidelines.

However, Mr Williams has often complained publicly about chaplains’ “access all areas” work in classrooms, playgrounds and with lunchtime bible study groups.

The High Court has agreed to hear the case and has set down 10-12 May for the hearing.

Mr Mander said SU QLD and Chaplain challenge heads to High Court many other stakeholders and supporters will fight the High Court challenge vigorously over the coming months.

“If this High Court challenge is successful, a large proportion of kids’ support in schools could disappear,” he said.

Mr Williams is also aware of the wide impact of the case saying, “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.”

The legal battle will be costly and both sides are raising funds via public donations.

SU QLD has started a website regarding the High Court challenge: to view please click here

Photo : SU QLD chaplain Stuart White at Caloundra State High School. Photo courtesy of SU QLD