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Australia's blurred separation between church and state

Constitutional ambiguity has allowed religion an excessive influence in schools, and Australia is not alone in this respect


John Howard visiting a primary school in Sydney when he was prime minister. His government paved the way for the National School Chaplaincy
Programme. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

Ron Williams knew something was amiss when his six-year-old son came home from his public school in Queensland singing gospel ditties. A jazz singer, composer and father of six, Williams discovered that his son was taking his cues from the school chaplain – one of thousands installed in Australia's public schools at public expense. Williams and his wife Andrea, who was inculcated in fundamentalist faith at school, asked the school to keep their son out of the chaplain's classes. When the other kids found out, they began to taunt him, telling him he would go to hell.

One of the Williams's older children later came home with a "Biblezine", which the school chaplain had handed out to all 1,500 students at the school. The magazine promoted a distinctly fundamentalist religious take on sexuality and relationships. "Condoms … promote promiscuity," one article stated. "God doesn't call it alternative lifestyle," another article said of same-sex relationships. "He calls it a sin."

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TAGGED: EDUCATION, SECULARISM


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