The Federal Government are reviewing the funding of Chaplaincy in schools around Australia. Mission Australia chaplains were asked to comment on the white paper. My comments were sent in via an email, but not included in our final submission, I didn’t get feedback, maybe they were not in line with the overall MA feedback. But my comments were similar to this article I read recently from an ABC website by Scott Stephens.
No government funds, please: we’re
There is no surer way of bringing the simmering debate about the role of religion in Australia to a full boil than by invoking the money and tax concessions given by government to fund certain religious activities. In no time, what already tends to be a fairly uncivil argument devolves into bitter invective against the supposedly theocratic designs of the churches from one side, and dismissive assertions of a kind of historically legitimate Christian “exceptionalism” from the other.
I believe that both extremes in this debate are wrong: the “secularists” because they assume that once religion is removed from public-political life, and consigned to interiority (where they assume it belongs, if anywhere), the secular space that is left will be neutral, benign and inherently just; and the Christian “exceptionalists” because they think that God’s providential care of the world can be mediated through political coercion, and because they do not believe that being on the payroll of the State is hazardous to the soul of Christianity itself… [read full article here]
4 thoughts on “Government Funded Christianity?”
I have to agree, Scott. Seeking redress of social inequities with tax dollars is one thing – a just and compassionate politic always involves (though is not limited to) public resources); however, churches in this country have had a very good, long drink at the public well over the years as though they have a special entitlement and it just is not fair to expect it.
I’d be interested to read your submission.
(*Disclaimer alert – I have a bias, I am a paid pastor (tax concessions) and have been a chaplain (government funded) and openly admit my bias)
I partially agree and disagree with what you are suggesting here Scott.
Firstly, I agree that those that don’t follow Christianity get there back up when the topic of ‘tax concessions’ and the like come up. Obviously, as a Pastor who receives these concessions, I have come up against this and it can be difficult. In this particular instance, I think the problem is more with our ‘expectation’ that they remain. If these concessions were removed tomorrow…I would just keep on keeping on.
Chaplaincy and the issues of government funded chaplains is a similar kettle of fish but I would argue not quite the same. My reasoning for this is that the overwhelming response from most schools with a chaplain is that the role is very highly valued for a myriad of reasons. And, as someone who has been a chaplain (and was sometimes a general dogs body like mentioned in the article) I was ok with that, in fact I saw that as part of my benefit to the school. As a Christian, I was willing to do some of the jobs others didn’t want to, but were needed.
There is a significant enough sized group who are AGAINST paid chaplaincy, but I am not convinced they are actually the majority, rather I’d suggest a vocal minority. Most parents I speak to (not from church backgrounds) who have a chaplain at their school wax lyrical about how good a job they do.
I would say, in the perfect world I’d prefer to see the church 100% funding chaplaincy, and by that I mean Christians (and not necessarily individual churches, though they would obviously play a role). However as this is not likely, and because it does appear in my experience that those actually AFFECTED by chaplaincy approve of it, I’m supportive of the government investing in the program.
Yes, bodies managing chaplaincy have to make sure the training and recruitment of chaplains improves, and it is. However for every ‘fruit loop’ chaplain, as some like to call them, there is a well balanced chaplain who doesn’t feel the need to specifically proselytise to get the Christian message of love, hope and grace into the community. I never once tried to convert someone when I was a chaplain, I just lived a life trying to be like Jesus in the school, trusting that God could work through me. Chaplains don’t actually need to ‘proselytise’ to be effective.
Finally, and I apologise for the rambled nature of this reply, the 2-3 most vocal opponents of chaplaincy i have spoken with aren’t even connected with a school! They just hear the word ‘christian’ and ‘government funded’ and get into a tiz without actually being involved with what is actually going on.
Anyway, rant over 😛
Good on ya James – good thoughts. I wonder if Youth Care would ever employ a Muslim chaplain due to a government school having more muslims in than ‘others’, or a mormon one etc?
No, they would not. Youth Care is definitely a Christian chaplaincy provider.
Another reason I would love for the church to pay, not the government. I’d prefer chaplains to be Christian.
I will say i don’t think we should legislate AGAINST other faiths because they would be ridiculous and take away so many of the reasons we advocate for chaplaincy. If a school wants to employ a Muslim chaplain, good on them. I’ll however always advocate for a Christian one because, at the end of the day, I do want the Christian view point lived out by chaplains (but not forced or pressured onto anyone).