Former NSW premier Bob Carr has weighed in against government funding for school chaplains, saying that "The notion of the state funding religious activity is abhorrent."
Meanwhile, the High Court challenge to the school chaplaincy program goes ahead next week, in what will be a critical test of section 116 of the Australian Constitution (which provides for some separation of church and state at the federal level). We'll see whether section 116 has any real teeth - it hasn't seemed that way in the past, but perhaps this is a stronger case. I'm not especially optimistic that the funding scheme will be struck down, as section 116 has been interpreted in the past as doing no more than forbidding the creation of a European-style established church, which the chaplaincy scheme does not do. Nonetheless, the High Court has an opportunity to give close attention to what it might regard as the true purpose of the provision.
Just FYI its actually section 116 of the constitution:
116. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
Sorry. I did specialise quite a bit in constitutional law when I did my law degree all those years ago, so I tend to trust my memory for these things without bothering to look them up. Obviously I should have done so in this case.
I wouldn't be too optimistic about this. My impression of this High Court is that it's hardly a scene of progressivism. Any lawyers out there think differently?
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