Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The School Chaplaincy Programme and the challenge

This morning, SMH reported that the national school chaplaincy programme is constitutionally invalid. It's 10pm and the article seems to have been edited to expand on the details and implications since this morning, and most significantly, its title has been changed to highlight that the school chaplaincy programme will continue to be funded.

From the edited version, which contain the most of the original content, I think there are two take-away points.

1) The court challenge against the school chaplaincy programme was basically on two grounds, religious freedom and the invalid use of executive power of the federal government. The court found that the funding agreement the Commonwealth committed itself was beyond its executive power, hence the scheme is constitutionally invalid. However, quite significantly, the High Court ruled unanimously that the chaplaincy programme did not infringe on the constitutional protection for religious freedom.

2) The father of four, Toowoomba man who challenged the programme reportedly said this:

"If we can't have a playing field within the public school system for our children that has freedom of religion and freedom from religion, I don't think there's anywhere else to go."

I am for the freedom of religion. But what's telling of what many outspoken atheists of our days, as with this man, is that they wish to have not just the freedom of religion but freedom from religion. I think it's common oversight in many people's thinking who are not necessarily atheists. But those who speak out against religion often seem to pursue freedom from religion knowingly. This is problematic because freedom from religion is most emphatically set against the freedom of religion. It is just as tyrannical as forcing everyone to comply with one and only state sanctioned religion, for atheism is not a neutral position you can take when religions are concerned. It is a religious position where you believe there is no God. So, in some sense, ironically, he was right in thinking that there's nowhere else to go. Not because our schools are overtly religious right now, but there's nowhere else to go but a religious place. Religious-ness is inherent in human nature, you cannot escape it.

I am glad that the chaplaincy programme was not unconstitutional on the grounds of religious freedom. I am glad I live in a country where freedom of religion is in fact upheld and rightly understood and applied (at least in most cases it seems) by law. At the same time, I am sad to be reminded of the fact that many people in this society want God banished from it. I am not surprised though. The bible informs me very well on how people, including myself, are set against God. But this in turn, reminds me of how God had mercy on me, a wretched sinner. How God reigns from heaven and in His grace, had turned me to see the wonder and glory of His Son. I can trust in His good plan for the whole world and continue to stand for truth and love those around me regardless of their religious stance.

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