Saturday, July 14, 2012

Australian court rules against government-paid chaplains in public schools

As reported in the Toledo Blade, June 30, 2012:

CANBERRA, Australia -- Australia's highest court said this week that the government exceeded its constitutional powers by paying for chaplains to run programs in public schools. The attorney general plans to try to keep the work going.

The ruling is a victory for Ron Williams, whose 6-year-old son came home from Darling Heights State School singing gospel songs in 2010.

Mr. Williams sued over the program at the school in Toowoomba in Queensland state.

Six of seven high court judges agreed that the government exceeded its powers by paying Scripture Union Queensland to provide a school chaplain.

About 2,700 schools around Australia have similar programs. Attorney General Nicola Roxon said she is examining the ruling's implications.

She said she would examine ways to legally continue the program, such as changing the law or paying states to provide the services instead of paying the providers directly.

The voluntary programs include support and guidance about ethics, values, relationships, spirituality, and religious issues. It costs the government more than $71 million a year.

The programs were introduced in 2007, when the conservative Liberal Party led the government.

The center-left Labor Party government in power had planned to expand it.

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