Chaplains safe for now: Langbroek says

VICTORY: Ron Williams outside the High Court, which ruled that Commonwealth funding for chaplains was unconstitutional.
VICTORY: Ron Williams outside the High Court, which ruled that Commonwealth funding for chaplains was unconstitutional. Contributed

THE future of the funding for the Sunshine Coast's 45 school chaplains is safe for now, despite the latest High Court ruling against the National School Chaplaincy Program.

Education Minister John Paul Langbroek has already telephoned Scripture Union CEO Peter James to assure him a new funding model would be found.

This means the nearly $250 million over the next four years in the federal budget for chaplaincy will continue, but will be channelled through the states and territories.

The High Court ruled in favour of Toowoomba man Ron Williams' argument that Commonwealth funding for chaplains was unconstitutional.

Mr James was at a loss to understand why Mr Williams continued with the High Court action when he knew an alternative funding model could be found.

"I ask myself what Ron Williams has achieved," Mr James said. "The argument was originally about the Church and State separation, but he lost that seven-nil.

"It was a comprehensive loss of the issue he cared about and it seemed it became an exercise to stop it anyway he could."

Scripture Union received support from "well over 85,000 Queenslanders" during the High Court case.

The program, introduced by John Howard in 2006, has been backed by both Labor and Liberal governments.

Noted surfer Robbie Sherwell, the brother-in-law of the Coast's first chaplain, Allan Taylor, was disappointed to hear of the court ruling.

Mr Sherwell said chaplaincy had never been about converting people for his brother-in-law, who died in a tragic car accident with his wife Kari in 2009.

"Chaplaincy was never there to try to turn anybody to Christianity," he said.

Mr Sherwell said many of the nearly 3000 people who attended Allan and Kari's funeral "were not Christian".

"He just touched their lives."

He said chaplaincy was about "looking after the kids, to be their mentor and friend and let them know there is a way out."

Topics:  chaplaincy editors picks education

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