Hey, I’m starting a new topic today, because I’m ridiculous and so’s your face.
Specifically, Australian politics. Sorry. (Inside joke.)
Every now and then I ask my rabid-politics-loving boyfriend about something that’s happening, and he gives me a plain English, easy to understand answer, and I wish that the newspapers did that. But they don’t. So I’ll add those chestnuts here.
This week’s topic?
The Chaplaincy Program
The chaplaincy program in Australia gives funding to schools to hire religious people to give guidance to students. It does not give funding for non-religious alternatives (e.g. secular counsellors).
Last week, the newspapers made a big fuss about how a man in Queensland won a high court challenge against the chaplaincy program in schools, and it was ruled that the program is unconstitutional.
So, cool! It’s been ruled unconstitutional, as it should be. Separation of church and state! Now the program will have to stop, yeah?
Ha ha, no.
To read the papers, you might think that the chaplaincy program was been ruled unconstitutional because it involved an unlawful overlap of church and state. That’s not correct. The court was asked a technical question about whether the constitution allowed the government to enter into arrangements to pay for certain services (with the chaplaincy program as its example). The court held that the federal government had overstepped its authority and that the chaplaincy program – along with a number of other very significant programs – were invalid.
Complicated, as politics always is.
Apparently, about 10% of the federal government’s budget is for this program, and other programs, which have all now been ruled unconstitutional. That’s a lot of programs!
Um. Then what happens?
We shall see. The government will likely call in constitutional lawyers, who will try to find a way to keep everything funded.
And this article mentions that alternative funding could also be used to fund the chaplaincy program.
“Having ruled out the funding model, we look to the Commonwealth to put in place an alternative funding solution,” he said. “That could well be a system of grants via the states and territories.”
What in the darn heck was the high court challenge worth, if it didn’t change anything?
Well, there’s a chance something will change. If the federal government can’t fund or order this to happen, it might go to the state level. And each state might make a different decision – for example, Victoria might decide that it wants to offer both chaplains and secular counsellors to schools, or it might decide that it would rather allocate money to the health system, than to a school program like this.
Yep. We shall see.