Yesterday, the High Court of Australia struck down the program by which school chaplains are federally funded.
There's a very big "but", however. As almost everyone was predicting (I was among them, but it was not a bold prediction), the case failed in respect of what passes for a "separation of church and state" clause in the Australian Constitution. The relevant section, section 116, will continue to be interpreted in a way that doesn't prevent very much, short of an attempt by the federal government to create an established church (which I actually think is about the least of our worries).
Thus, this is hardly a great victory for secularism, or church/state separation, or any similar concept.
Rather, the scheme failed because its financing was established in a way that exceeded the powers of the executive government at federal level. It should have been backed with legislation.
Accordingly, the government could rectify things simply by enacting legislation - and this would probably have support from the opposition (which is, in fact, the former government that came up with the scheme in the first place!). As the scheme appears to have many flaws - including the fundamental one of what are chaplains doing in state schools? - we should welcome the fact that there will be an opportunity for public debate before any legislation passes through parliament.
And we can certainly be pleased about another aspect. Since the opponents of the scheme won the case, they'll not have to pay the other side's legal costs, and will get some of their own costs paid by the Commonwealth. Scripture Union, which runs the scheme, has not had a costs order made against it.
Of course. the outcome is pleasing up to a point ... but no, this is not especially a step towards a more secular Australia.