CATHOLIC schools have raised fears of government interference in their religious affairs after John Howard pledged $90 million for school chaplains, a move the former premier, Bob Carr, called a retrograde and divisive threat to the separation of church and state.
On initial assessment, my thoughts were that yet again, this Howard government is attempting to manipulate social mores in order to sway ideologies. It is a mark of this government, to install greater conservative influences within the base levels of society. Non-secular religious influences, conservative school practices, raillery against women’s rights to self-determination of issues regarding their own bodies, and so on. It’s yet more fundamentalism running rampant out of Canberra. Even to the extent that this morning I hear Howard claiming that while he’s all fired up about this ‘Chaplain’ idea, he’ll reserve the right to dole out the money to those schools and individuals they wish to choose. In other words, he’ll decide the suitability of the person’s ideology, thanks very much.
To me, Chaplain means sky-pilot as opposed to what is genuinely needed in our education systems, both public and private, which is trained counsellors. Not bible-bashing pulpit thumpers. I’m with Bob Carr. Governments of any stripe must not indulge in boundary pushing on that imperative standing between church and state. Provide proper, trained and independent psychological support to school communities, but leave religion to those who really feel the need.