[caption id="attachment_5042" align="alignleft" width="120" caption="Tim Mander, CEO SU Qld"][/caption]

Tim Mander, CEO of Scripture Union Queensland, has written a letter to update people on the progress of the High Court challenge to Federal funding of the school chaplaincy program. Please read the letter to stay informed on this very important issue:

By now you have probably heard about the High Court Challenge being mounted against the federal funding of school chaplains. I am writing to give you some details about this and to seek your support.

The Challenge

A Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim was issued out of the High Court of Australia by a Toowoomba man, Ronald Williams and funded by the Australian Secular Lobby and members of the public who want school chaplaincy out of state schools.

Mr Williams is arguing that the Federal government has no power under the constitution to fund school chaplains, and that the guidelines for School Chaplaincy impose a religious test on employing “an officer of the Commonwealth”. Scripture Union Qld is one of four defendants, the other three being the Commonwealth and two Federal Departments.

The High Court has agreed to hear the case and has set down 10-12 May for the hearing.

Importantly, the case says nothing about chaplains’ access in schools. It concerns only whether the Commonwealth may fund school chaplaincy under the terms of the current guidelines.

SU Qld’s Response

SU Qld will be defending this challenge vigorously. We have been able to engage an experienced Senior Counsel to head up our defence - Ron Merkel QC. Ron is a former federal court judge who comes with a solid reputation and has until the end of the month to prepare our defence. Please pray for him.

As we gear up the legal defence, we are also launching a number of initiatives to help us not only win the legal battle but to also go on the front foot regarding educating the public about the school chaplaincy program. Here’s the plan to date:

1. National Prayer Day for School Chaplaincy

We believe that our response to the High Court challenge must be bathed in prayer. To that end we are inviting churches to pray specifically for the future of school chaplaincy on Sunday May 1. We will write again shortly to offer a number of resources which will help your congregation participate.

2. Support School Chaplaincy Web Site

There is a lot of misinformation circulating that must be corrected, and we are being inundated with requests for information about school chaplaincy from the media and other interested parties. To help provide accurate information about the challenge and the benefits of the school chaplaincy program, we have produced a web site www.supportschoolchaplains.com.au  I encourage you to view this site and pass it on to others.  It will help dispel the myths that are being disseminated by those opposed to this nationally acclaimed program.

3. Fighting Fund

You can be assured that we are committed to putting the best legal case forward to the High Court to save the funding of School Chaplaincy. But to do so will be costly. To help cover these costs we have set up a Fighting Fund which can be accessed through the above website. Please encourage friends and colleagues to go online and donate to this fund. Thank you!

4. On-Line Petition

It is vital to ensure that the political will remains strong to support the federal funding of school chaplaincy regardless of the outcome of the High Court challenge. As a result, we are developing another web site that will allow stakeholders to join with others across Australia to register their support for school chaplaincy. I hope to advise you of these details in a few weeks.

If this High Court Challenge is upheld, up to 1000 school chaplains across the nation could be lost. But the repercussions of such a result are sure to extend beyond federal funding for school chaplaincy. Chaplaincy in the Defence Services and the Australian Federal Police could also be under threat, not to mention other funding that goes to faith based welfare organisations.

There is no doubt that some hard days are still ahead as we seek to save the federal funding of school chaplaincy. However, I am actually energised by this attack on what is such a highly respected program. This is a great opportunity to give a larger audience a picture of the significance and importance of the school chaplaincy program. It is also an opportunity to showcase the amazing work all our chaplains do – work for which we are truly grateful!

Please join us in this very worthy fight.

With Christian regards

Tim Mander