The hearings into the High Court challenge to chaplaincy has concluded. As Scripture Union Queensland said in its media release (see below), a decision on the program is likely to be handed down later this year.
12 August 2011
Media Release: High Court decision in chaplaincy case could affect roads, autism and more
After three days of legal arguments, the High Court challenge to chaplaincy has concluded its hearings, with the Court reserving its judgement until later in the year. What follows is months of legal limbo around whether the Federal government has the power to fund different programs, and if the plaintiff wins, it may make its effects felt far beyond chaplaincy.
Essentially, the case revolves around whether the Federal Government can spend or provide benefits where it does not interfere with the state's power, or, as the barrister for plaintiff Ron Williams argued, that all such spending will require an Act of Federal Parliament. If the High Court agrees with him, it would have wide reaching effects on programs as diverse as roads and autism spending.
With respect to whether chaplaincy involves a breach of the "religious test" prohibition, while the Court is still yet to formally rule, it does not appear that they consider this argument has merit, advising that there was no need to provide a defense on this point.
Tim Mander, CEO of Scripture Union Qld, the nation's largest employing authority for chaplains, said that the court is not making a judgement on the value of chaplaincy, and there's widespread community response asking for school chaplaincy to continue, even from people who are not religious.
Mr Mander said, "We're highly encouraged by the support we're receiving from people of all walks of life who recognise that chaplains help students of all backgrounds."
"Until we hear the Court's decision, we'll continue supporting chaplains across hundreds of schools who are caring for students in real and practical ways," said Mr Mander.