Chaplains in Australian government, must be religious, although they are officially banned from proselytising or preaching. The religious bodies that appoint them deny any connection with ‘preaching’ or proselytising (see, eg., Canberra Times March 8 lead story). If that is the case:
1. Why are chaplains required to be religious? Wouldn’t a non-religious person be just as capable of performing the requirements of the job?
The central role of religion has been described as the obligation to evangelise and bear witness. ‘True evangelism’, has been described by the World Council of Churches as “belonging to the very being of the church, and ‘an essential mission and a responsibility of every Christian and every Church’. Pope Francis describes transmission of the faith as ‘the heart of the Church’s mission’. Belief-based associations that perform state responsibilities may well implement the supplementary agenda of proselytising (either officially or otherwise): that is their job. The distinction between religious and non-religious activity of these associations could be difficult to draw, as many religions consider they have a mandate to proselytise, recruit converts and influence government, even when carrying out secular functions. The distinction between religion and social welfare activity becomes irrelevant in countries that have adopted English precedent which provides that the ‘advancement of religion’ per se is to be considered a benefit to society, and therefore eligible for classification of ‘charity’.
2. If chaplaincy is supposed to be secular in nature, why do the heads of chaplaincy services claim a religious agenda?
The heads of organisations have themselves declared their intention to proselytise. Evonne Paddison, former CEO of Access Ministries, Victoria's largest chaplaincy funding recipient, told a conference of evangelical Anglicans in 2008, "We must go and make disciples ... What really matters is seizing the God-given opportunity we have to reach kids in schools.'' (emphasis original). See here and here.
Latika Bourke, states that ‘Generate Ministries, the largest provider of school chaplains in NSW, has begun offering a "faith building" course to students and told them their chaplain is one way of accessing the program. When contacted about the possible breach, Generate Ministries said it only intended for chaplains funded under a separate NSW wellbeing program to offer the course. However, that program also forbids chaplains from proselytising’ (Sydney Morning Herald),24 September 2018.
Belief-based associations that perform secular state responsibilities consider they have a mandate to proselytise, recruit and influence government, even when carrying out secular functions.
SUQ’s chief executive, Peter James, said it is meeting its obligation under taxation law and defended the fund’s tax deductible status by arguing that chaplaincy is “explicitly religious in nature”. SUQ runs chaplaincy services in the ACT.
Chrys Stevenson provides evidence she says indicates that-Guidelines-wont-stop-school-chaplains-proselytising. She points out that Both chaplains and chaplaincy providers have made it clear – chaplaincy is about making disciples. For example, she quotes a Queensland school chaplain recently writing on his blog, ‘It is my mission to disciple others, including kids and their families in the schools I work in, as well as those around me in church life.’ Again, quoting Stevenson, chaplain David Hockey in an interview with ABC’s Compass program indicated that you can’t put religious evangelists into schools and expect them not to proselytise.. Hockey said ‘I personally believe, and as a chaplain I believe, that Jesus is the way, truth and life, and that can come through in our conversation. But young people know that I’m the chaplain in the school. They know what they’re going to get. They know that I’m the ‘Goddie’, so they come to me, young people and staff, knowing and I guess expecting me to speak about that.’ This doesn’t address the fact that children are naïve and impreeionable, open to unquestioned influence in their lives.
3. The ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations (Council) which represents parents at the Territory’s public schools, welcomes the move away from religious chaplains in ACT public schools. Why are parents and the community ignored elsewhere?
“Our schools need counsellors, not chaplains,” said Council President Kirsty McGovern-Hooley.
“A national program which employs only religious personnel is a misdirection of funding. It takes resources which could be used for qualified social workers, mental health nurses and counsellors in schools to assist students and families.”
The Council, says that ACT schools must be secular and that the real need is for qualified mental health professionals in our schools.
“Overwhelmingly, our members have told us that school-based mental health workers should not be affiliated with a religious body. Many parents do not think it is appropriate to have personnel identified as religious in our secular government schools.
“Our schools serve diverse communities and appointing a chaplain of one religion is inappropriate and likely to alienate those of other faiths,” she said.
4. Religion is a matter for churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions. Why is the taxpayer compelled to pay for religious guidance, which is the business of those institutions? Church attendance is falling. Is it fair for parents to leave religious development of their children to the government?
 See, e.g., Monsma, Stephen and Soper, Christopher, The Challenge of Pluralism (Plymouth, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc. 2nd ed, 2009). 121