High Court challenge to school chaplaincy discussed on The Drum

Theologian and former Uniting church minister, Scott Stephens from ABC Religion makes sound sense in discussing the “messy” role of chaplains in Aussie schools, also defending the High Court challenge by Ron Williams.

Part of Christian service is to be clear about ones beliefs influencing the way one lives, Scott stresses. This leaves chaplains to deal with the reality that they will always promote Christian living, whether they proselytise or not. Part of Christian service is to express their own experience as followers of Jesus. Most chaplains Scott knows have “no idea… what are we supposed to be doing on school grounds?” They end up “a defacto teacher’s aid”.

Brilliantly he identifies Gillard’s extension of chaplaincy funding as a way to “baptise her faith in schools” and thus curry favour with the Christian Lobby. He is “not at all” in favour of chaplains in schools due to the the “moral quagmire” that follows government funding.

As church attendance has fallen lobbying plus reliance on government funding has grown. This plus “… reliance on legislation to cement it’s role…that’s a pretty clear sign church leaders no longer believe in God”. Tim Mander can make up as much piffle as he likes in defending his dodgy scam and free ride, but the facts are clear. Money changes everything.

Problems arose after The Australian yesterday published an article on creep and bigot, creationist John Mackay lecturing at Gympie State High School at the invite of a Scripture Union QLD chaplain. Other comments from Andrew Clennell and Tim Wilson.

Scripture Union QLD chaplain organises creationist lecture

There is less than 1 per cent of complaints against school chaplains across the whole country which is absolutely minuscule. The future welfare of our kids is at stake here, we believe it’s that serious and not only will we be fighting it but we have 30,000 statements of support from parents and supporters of the program.

Tim Mander CEO Scripture Union QLD on ABC – The World Today August 3rd, 2011

John “necrophilia” MacKay. Remember that nickname used by the British Centre for Science Education. Because just recently the world weary evolution denialist, and one time accuser of necrophilia, Satanism and witchcraft against the personal secretary of Ken Ham (of Creationist Museum fame), John MacKay of Creation Research was “educating” Aussie students.

He was invited to Gympie State High School at their chaplain’s behest. MacKay doesn’t just teach Creationism but also teaches via his biblical wisdom of Genesis, Romans, Corinthians, Paul, Matthew and Mark that homosexuality is a sin and that marriage must be of one man and of one woman for life. MacKay has no theological, psychological or proper teaching qualifications. Much like the chaplain that invited him.

But don’t worry! Tim Mander assures us chaplains are just as good as professional counsellor’s, in managing the high risk, self harming and prone to suicide group of students who may be struggling with sexual identity. MacKay can always distract them with his hatred for feminist “clones” or his belief that Satan’s pet project evolution caused 9/11. Or wax lyrical about the Aussie Creation Museum he wants to build.

Education QLD have, of course, defended his invite and lecture.

MacKay is an original co-founder along with Ken Ham and Carl Wieland of the Australian Creation Science Foundation – CSF. Then onto that dumping ground for all things offensively impossible, Answers in Genesis. Ham later set up AiG, USA. There was a consequent falling out in early 2006 over international kinship and the meeting of business standards. The US and UK teams shot through keeping the name AiG. This left the Australian, NZ and Sth. African branches to become Creation Ministries International – CMI.

Erstwhile buddies of the now-in-jail creationist Kent Hovind we might get an idea of their habits for earthly legal compliance. The real reason for falling out was money. Money made from selling magazines and dirty tactics over distribution list control. A solution was made after the US court of appeals for the 6th circuit ordered CMI and AiG to arbitrate over international affiliates and copyright, in April 2009. Nonetheless before this occurred, CSF (AiG) and John MacKay (CMI) fell out seriously due to the aforementioned dynamics. Things got a tad bizarre. Which, given the crackpottery these guys make up for a living is perhaps expected. Back in June 2007 Duae Quartunciae wrote;

In brief, MacKay started accusing a CSF staffer, Margarent Buchanan, of witchcraft, Satanism, and necrophilia with her dead husband. There was never the slightest basis for these accusations; apart from “discernment” by MacKay. MacKay made an ultimatum that either that woman left, or he did. This was a problem, because MacKay was so important to the group; but in the end MacKay resigned and went his own way. He was also excommunicated from his own Baptist church for the whole affair.

Update: There is just so much offence oozing from MacKay’s conspiracy cum religious zealotry rant of a web site it demands mention. Follow climate science denialism – “Climate Fraud as Aussie Govt ( June 2011) accused of blatant climate lies… Climate taxes coming Aussie Prime Minister and atheist, Julia Gillard, is increasingly confidentrecent studies of Pacific Islands have shown the islands are remaining stable in size or even growing….” [Accurate explanation] Lilly Fossils: “Sea lilies… have joined the ranks of living fossils which deny evolution and point to Gods creation ‘after their Kind’,… useful in dealing with the widespread belief that fossils take millions of years to form.

Or Untold secrets of planet earth: Dragonsreal powerful, “documentable”, defensible connection between the dragons of ancient times and the dinosaurs we know so well from fossils… Secrets never before publishedover 20 new examples of dinosaurs in ancient artwork... More on fossils: “Geologists like to explain this (mixtures of fresh/salt water and land plants) on the basis of a perpetually moving delta and flood plain river system which lasted for millions of years. However mixed marine plant and fresh water species are far easier explained as (Noahs) flood debris.”

Everywhere is Donate, Donate, Donate. But perhaps the most disturbing given this chap is in effect passively supported by the education department coupled with Mander’s bold claims of needed and wanted chaplaincy, is this link between Brevik and Charles Darwin via the invented term “kill or be killed”. Darwin’s theory says no such thing. MacKay is insulting students in the most offensive way by claiming Darwin’s brilliant theory can be reduced to the rubbish of creationist simplifications and Social Darwinism.

His claim is clear. Teaching evolution is teaching students to kill or be killed and this is what guided Brevik. Thus the barbarism of literal biblical fundamentalism with genocide and virgin rape at Gods command is the answer. This nutter isn’t just an anti-science warrior, he has a crafted mock up moral objection to a gross misrepresentation of reality. What a bonus for our students.

Screen Grab from Mackay's "Creation Research" Home page

MacKay is the self described “International Director of Creation Research”. He’s actually the founder presumably diverting into this after CMI. You can follow a link on MacKay’s site – in the above screengrab – to a rather insane article claiming that Brevik didn’t claim to be Christian but rather “Darwinist”. It then proceeds to quote Brevik’s claims of being “100-percent Christian”, whilst inferring “Darwinism”. However, I may be biased and don’t want to tarnish John’s image. John MacKay can do that himself. Indeed he has offered his wisdom in creationist publications and online. Creation News 1997;

… the declared feminist desire to be able to clone humans, so [women] could dispense with men…

On cloning;

Can you imagine the results of feminist-controlled cloning? A planet full of cloned female offspring whose similar physical characteristics would react identically to the same conditions, i.e. get sick at the same time, have the same monthly syndrome, wear the same face, like the same colours and fashions. Such feminist clones would bore themselves to death at the same predictable age.

MacKay’s Creation Research website in the UK wrote about the 9/11 attacks on March 22nd, 2002;

…believers should not be surprised when things like this happen … The root cause of this increasing violence is sin – sin which is rooted in the refusal to glorify The Lord as the God who created the universe.

In recent western culture this refusal has been built around evolution and the denial of a god of any sort.

In April 2006 his website proposed;

Satan has only recently begun introducing evolution to Third World countries in order to destroy missionary enterprise. Let’s get in first with our spiritual armour on and provide Third World missionaries and others with the weapons to do battle against the subtleties of Satan as he seeks to undermine confidence in God’s Word and missionary enterprise.

Coming on top of the ombudsman report of demonic possession beliefs in at least one chaplain, reports of fundamentalism and “covert” conversion, documented misleading of Australians over school acceptance, ignoring parental concerns, excessive evangelising, irrelevance to multi-faith schools and the Australian Psychological Society damning the programme as damaging to students, this is now quite ridiculous. Business as usual then.

Carry on… carry on…

Related:

Twitter: #NSCP #StopNSCP #HighCourtNSCP

High Court Challenge to School Chaplains

ABC 7:30 Report segment on Ron Williams’ High Court challenge to Australian National School Chaplaincy Program

Related:

Twitter: #NSCP #StopNSCP #HighCourtNSCP

Never mind the bollocks – bring on the School Chaplains

I was perhaps as surprised as annoyed to hear former Liberal party MP Ross Cameron feign disinterest in the present disquiet surrounding school chaplains, on a recent episode of The Drum.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has made 8 recommendations that underscore failures of very basic compliance and accountability. The wider implication of Peter Garrett’s iron clad “guidelines” being fatefully porous and gouged like the side of the sinking Titanic, must raise serious concerns. But Cameron almost seeks to ridicule by “regarding it as the smallest of small beer”.

Insultingly he likens this group peppered with creationists and demon exercising fundamentalists who have “unfettered” access to small children, to Australia’s war time chaplains. He offers;

Our troops have been taking chaplains into war zones for 200 years – I’m sure they can cope with a playground.

Responding to a question on proposed increased funding for psychological services for students, Cameron doesn’t want to “create a generation of victims… life involves knocks”. Surely then, this is an admission as to the ingenuous claims of the NSCP itself. Chaplaincy promoters purport to be there to help children with the very “knocks” he alludes to. Bullying, sexual orientation, bereavement, friendship problems, study load, anxiety, etc.

But Cameron’s true bias is quickly revealed. Hot on the heels of his foot in mouth rebuttal to stated NSCP aims he continues;

… life involves knocks. I just think what you have here is the Greens who want to de-carbonise Australia but they also want to de-Christianise Australia, while I’m not there, you know, wanting to insist on Scripture being taught in a certain way or insist on a certain number of chaplains in schools… I’m not offended by it, it doesn’t bother me if it continues, I don’t think it’s perfectly done but I think it’s a net benefit.

In short he has very little idea but will take the “Greens conspiracy” angle to suit his own aims.

Perhaps the most revealing aspect of chaplaincy comes from Christine Burford, a chaplain with ACCESS Ministries. Christine spoke on ACCESS Sunday, raising eyebrows and serious concerns. I was asked by the fine folk over at Fairness In Religions In School back then to put together some of the weirder stuff Christine said  It turned out there was quite a bit. Christine didn’t disappoint me and the video below is the result.

Whilst Christine dons the warrior for God persona, bemoaning “attacks” on ACCESS Ministry, I am still pondering how she’d go in a war zone, Ross.

The Devil is a “living enemy” says Christine Burford of ACCESS Ministries. Yet whilst God’s love is more powerful “be prayerful [don’t] fall into cockiness”, she advises speaking at Naringal Baptist Church on ACCESS Sunday.

Christine was “a lost sheep”, thinking independently at school and committing acts of wanton sailing by the age of 21. Fortunately, whilst in PNG in a “little thatch church” God “apprehended” Christine and “said will you trust me, now will you let me take over your life”. That was “a major significant experience”, Christine understates with absolute seriousness but now of course sees “many hands of God over my life”.

Apart from having a one way conversation with a deity who wanted to take over her life (she seemingly acquiesced), Christine also opines as to the “small groups with different world views”. Far from being just those who don’t hear God ask to take over their lives, it appears there’s a perceived attack on those who don’t hallucinate.

“We face the world… secular situations with other world views who have a loud voice and penetrate a swell, to bring unrest and undermine the work of God in schools and of course ACCESS Ministries does represent God, so it’s gunna be attacked”.  In fact Christine likens this “opposition” (of having a different world view) to the opposition to the rebuilding of the ancient biblical wall of Jerusalem. Strangely, I didn’t see that coming – seriously!

Delusion, arrogance and battle regalia aside, all thinking Australians must by now be asking just what is our government doing handing money to a group that propagates and perpetrates the type of far, far “out there” biblical fundamentalism that has wrought so much division and plunging educational standards in American schools. Whatever “values” our children are receiving it’s coming from people who dismiss any other ontology or interpretation as an attack – as unGodly. They alone hold the key to our kids salvation.

Incredibly, free thinking and moderate Christians apparently do not “represent God” in the view of ACCESS Ministries. Never mind the unbelievers of other faiths that make up an ever growing proportion in Australian society or the “secular situations” like those which are designed to protect education from exactly this type of abuse.

Who needs bollocks when we have “truth” like this?

The “weeping sore” of the National School Chaplaincy Programme

It hasn’t been the best week for the sellers of the National School Chaplaincy Programme Beta version, firmly ensconced in schools following a dishonest campaign by the National School Chaplaincy Association. Look for qualifications or a definitive role and about all one finds is the made up sales jingle by Scripture Union and other NSCA members that they are affectionately called “chappies”.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman Report, embedded below, raises serious concerns about the ill defined role of chaplains, no minimum qualifications and the non existent code of conduct or definition of proselytising. Added to this is the absence of minimum qualifications and a clear avenue for complaints. Even defining the terms “pastoral care” or “chaplain” properly has been recommended. It’s hardly surprising given that Australians were hoodwinked by a self serving 2009 review conducted by the NSCA itself that magically turned a 25% survey response rate into a 97% request for ongoing funding for chaplains. “You can’t argue with facts like that”, boasted NSCA’s Tim Mender in late 2009. Two days ago he was piping the same tune;

Chaplaincy is welcomed in school communities. They are making a wonderful contribution to the welfare of our kids, and schools are saying that in droves.

This is not true. As Commonwealth Ombudsman Allan Usher succinctly observed;

There is a degree of uncertainty in the community. There are many organisations who are rather nervous about what’s happening in the schools.

A brief look at Peter Garrett’s response to the Ombudsman’s report gives away his predetermined agenda to maintain the programme. His department “broadly agrees” with the recommendations, which he stresses have already been identified by the government. His release includes;

Whenever I visit a school taking part in the scheme I am always reminded of the high level of support among principals, teachers and students, and have seen first-hand the difference school chaplains can make in student well-being. [….]

The Government is extending the scheme to 2014 and expanding it to 1000 additional schools, and we remain committed to ensuring as many schools and students as possible receive the benefits of what has been a successful and valuable program.

The government’s insouciant neglect of chaplaincy shortfalls, community needs and attitude hasn’t been missed by Dr Monica Thielking and Associate Professor David Mackenzie from Swinburne University. They’ve called for a “comprehensive independent review of student support services”. Noting the “ambiguous” and evangelism prone “pastoral care” aspect showered with praise by Garrett and the NSCA, along with the upcoming High Court challenge, their media release, School chaplains: Where’s the evidence?, includes;

The ‘weeping sore’ of the chaplaincy program would be better treated by comprehensive independent research on student support services in Australian schools. The focus of the research should be the degree to which student support services are meeting the mental health, welfare and educational needs of students. While various jurisdictions are seriously interested in improving student support, there is no national approach and there has not been a review of all of the models and programs currently operating, let alone a process of reforming our student welfare services provision for the 21st Century.

“The focus on the chaplaincy program is a divisive distraction from what really needs to be done. Whether there should be a chaplaincy program or not should be ultimately considered as part of a thoroughly conducted program of research and development on how best to support young Australians through school and into life.

The so-called “federal inquiry” clearing ACCESS Ministry of their stated mission to convert children by “planting the gospel in schools… to go and make disciples” who “without Jesus… are lost”, was a whitewash. Two days before she got the all clear, Evonne Paddison’s ominous challenge to “bring on the inquiry”, because “the one we serve is the same yesterday, today… forever and his purposes will not be thwarted!”, tells us much of where Peter Garrett’s intentions lie. It is thus right and proper to have serious concerns about the future of the school chaplaincy programme under Garrett’s auspices.

The 2010 Ombudsman investigation in the Northern Territory of a school chaplain living with a convicted paedophile – raising parental concern of trust by association – other chaplains accessing children alone at home, counselling without qualifications, having no limitations placed on “religious propagation”, poor record keeping and more is a reminder of how wrong misplaced confidence can be. Since May 22nd this year, nothing more has been heard about allegations of rape and sexual misconduct directed at a chaplain or in what context these allegations from The Secular Lobby were framed.

However, the other issue they raised with Peter Garrett was that DEEWR and Scripture Union were co-developing an evangelical bible based resource – The Daniel Quest – for use by NSCP funded chaplains. S.U. QLD had made much of this project, which was most unusual given ACCESS Ministries were supposedly being investigated by Garrett and DEEWR for evangelising. Following a complaint from a parent, both the Scripture Union QLD’s Daniel Quest and a Bundaberg school web page hosting the project vanished. Readers familiar with ACCESS Ministry will recognise this tactic.

The ACCESS federal inquiry whitewash, Northern Territory’s five fold funnies, departmental neglect, invented statistics and inflated support, DEEWR double standards and the vanishing evidence of a bible project all point to an independent inquiry into the NSCP “weeping sore” as being justified. Recent online sex talk from a female chaplain to a student’s friend, distribution of homophobic material to students, active suppression of community awareness of inappropriate and bigoted conduct, fundamentalist, creationist and anti-science agendas – all enveloped in self serving, deceptive extremism are corrosive dynamics indeed.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman reported this week on page 5, that chaplaincy guidelines state the role of a chaplain is as a;

Reference point for students, staff and other members of the school community on religious, spiritual issues, values, human relationships and wellbeing issues. This includes providing support for grief, family breakdown and other crisis situations.

This, as with the NT Ombudsman’s Report raises concern about chaplains being placed in situations where they are forced to act as counsellors. Tim Mender fails to realise many community members and parents want neither pastoral care nor chaplains acting as counsellors. His reassurance to ABC that chaplains are well trained and “equipped to know the difference”, always working with professionals in the school environment is a fallacy. As former chaplain Beau Walker claims;

I would be asked from the school to maybe go and speak to a child who had a relative pass away. The guidelines say no counselling, but what else can you do in that situation?

Written up large on the Scripture Union QLD “chappy” page is Renee’s story of helping a “student whose mum died”;

I was able to take her through a program that deals with the effects and process of grief and loss… and talk with her throughout the whole process. [….] We are on a journey and each step is getting a little less painful for her. I am so proud of her and the amazing strength she shows each day. As chaplain, I am available to students and not tied down with other jobs. I think it’s amazing that supporting students is my role! They are the reason that I’m here. They aren’t keeping me from my job – they are my job!

What is also of concern is the “out there” evangelistic beliefs and Biblical fundamentalist views summed up perfectly by Christine Burford, interlocutor with God and chaplain from ACCESS Ministries, who is proud of her “covert mission”. In the Ombudsman’s report we read of the anxiety any parent would feel in knowing they have no say as to the “unfettered” access chaplains have to children. There are no departmental guidelines as to how parents are informed of chaplaincy access to children or how they may reciprocate. There are no requirements for the department to inform parents of their right to complain to the department itself. If parents act to restrict their children’s exposure to chaplains, given the ubiquitous nature of the programme it is likely to lead to divisiveness. On page 13 of the report one reads that a Mr. Y contacted the ombudsman’s office to say;

… three days after his five-year-old daughter started school she came home and told him, ‘Today I played hide ‘n’ seek with Mr Chappy!’ This caused him some concern as he understands that the chaplain does not hold any qualifications in education, early childhood learning, counselling or psychology. Mr Y advised that he then became aware that the chaplain is a missionary of a local Christian church and that this church has an agreement with the school to use its facilities on weekends to, among other activities, conduct miracle healing sessions. Mr Y advised that this church is also part of a religious movement which believes childhood behavioural disorders are caused by demonic possession. [….]

Mr Y believes that the implementation of the Chaplaincy Program at his local primary school is starting to foster principles of exclusion and discrimination, and he also believes that chaplaincy is becoming a divisive issue within an otherwise harmonious school community.

On page 8 it’s reported that despite the application guidelines that Peter Garrett holds dear and cites as virtually impenetrable, it appears they can be easily set aside. Ms. X reports that at a school with a high number of non English speaking non Christian families a survey that painted the chaplaincy programme in a strongly favourable light was sent home with students. Many parents weren’t aware of this and there was no language translation. On balance the responses did not support the chaplaincy programme. It was implemented anyway because the school felt it was not bound by the survey results thus Garrett’s department deemed the application a success. Ms. X also believes the decision was based on the belief the chaplain would act as a school counsellor.

It’s clear that despite Garrett’s preaching about the “guidelines” over and again, they are quite poor and in need of strong review. Proper complaint handling must be implemented with parents well aware of their rights. The Commonwealth Ombudsman made suggestions to deal with the flaws of this NSCP Beta version. Improved community consultation is required before implementing a chaplaincy programme. All key participants must be accountable under the funding agreement.

Mechanisms for assessing compliance with guidelines and national monitoring are needed. Protection of children and the rights of parents must be central to administration of the programme. Best practice as to how parents voice consent should be pursued. Strict definitions of what is and is not proselytising need to be provided by the department. The Ombudsman made 8 recommendations which can be read over pages 19 – 22.

Many members of the NSCA are also members of the international group, Arrow Leadership, compelled by the ”Lausanne Covenant”. This evangelical manifesto seeks nothing less that to make ”disciples of every nation”. Notice the spelling already used by the NSCA in Australia. “Program”. ACCESS’ co-architects, Evonne Paddison and Bishop Stephen Hale are on the board. They are not playing around folks.

If anything we can take away one general conclusion. The National School Chaplaincy Programme was not, is not and will not be implicated for the benefit of schools, children or families. It exists to maintain the influence of Christianity in a secular education system. To ensure the privilege of evangelism, to dilute the influence and cultures of a multi-faith community and to combat free thought, the pursuit of reason and skeptical enquiry.

No Australian should be expected to accept that.

7:30 Report, July 27th