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Recruiting for Jesus

By Meredith Doig - posted Tuesday, 7 September 2010


Hon. Simon Crean
Member for Hotham
Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
PO Box 5295
CLAYTON, VIC 3168

10th August 2010

Dear Simon,

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As a long time Labor member in Melbourne Ports, I have to tell you I was outraged at the extension of funding for the National Schools Chaplaincy Program. It's a decision that has brought me to the verge of resigning from the Labor Party and I believe it is simply driving members like me - those who believe in progressive social policies, not insidious evangelism with a smiley face - into the hands of the Greens.

I attach a submission (PDF 143KB) put forward to the Review of the National Schools Chaplaincy Program by the Rationalist Society of Australia, of which I am Secretary. It's a considered, and I dare say, rational argument, based on the sort of fundamental values I would have thought the ALP should support.

I don't deny that children are in need of pastoral care. If individual religious chaplains provide such care, then I do not object as long as that's all they do. But, the evidence from the organisations (Scripture Union, Access Ministries etc) that provide these religious chaplains gives their tactics away. You know and I know that they are in the business of “recruiting for Jesus”, no matter what they may say publicly. For example:

  • In the forward to a book on school chaplains, Scripture Union’s CEO, Tim Mander admits “To have a full-time Christian presence in government schools in this ever-increasing secular world is an unbelievable privilege. Here is the church’s opportunity to make a connection with the one place through which every young person must attend: our schools.”

At a time when we desperately need more rather than less scientific literacy, these organisations hold to a literal interpretation of the bible. For example:

  • The Scripture Union believes and expects its chaplains to believe that “… the Old and New Testament Scriptures are God-breathed, since their writers spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit; hence are fully trustworthy in all that they affirm; and are our highest authority for faith and life.” (Scripture Union - Aims & Beliefs.)
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How can the Government support a program - no, more than support - fund a program that is staffed by people whose organisation thinks the Old and New Testaments are "fully trustworthy in all that they affirm"! Does this include, for example, the possession of slaves (Leviticus 25:44), selling daughters into slavery (Exodus 21:7), or killing anyone who works on the sabbath (Exodus 35:2)?

Unlike in America, religion has not until recently been a major political force in Australia. But with the strength of their partisan lobbying growing by the day, one has to ask "Where are they getting their funding?" Some of these religious bodies are international organisations, with explicit mandates to recruit young impressionable minds. For example:

  • A directive from a Scripture Union International says “We believe that our mandate is to bring children and young people into the life of established churches by programs that serve them in environments in which they feel comfortable.” And
  • “We believe that, in the case of families that are not Christian, the evangelism of the whole family rather than of children in isolation is still our objective. However, if this cannot immediately be realised, we believe that God still calls us to evangelise children themselves.” (Scripture Union International, 2005, p5 (PDF 130KB))
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About the Author

Dr Meredith Doig is President of the Rationalist Society of Australia. After a career in blue chip corporates, for the last 10 years or so she has had a portfolio of directorships on commercial, government and non-profit boards. She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Moderator with the Cranlana Colloquium on Ethics and the Good Society. She has also been a passionate motorcyclist since the age of 18 and still rides a BMW 650GS.

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