Chrys Stevenson

Send in the Clowns: Guidelines won’t stop school chaplains proselytising

Chaplains School
Image: AAP

I’ve learned not to place too much trust in the earnest, public proclamations of Christians-in-receipt-of-public-money.

So, when Rach Mason assured us on The Big Smoke that school chaplaincy isn’t a problem because “Chaplains are not allowed to proselytise,” I’ll admit to raising a sceptical eyebrow.

I recall a similar protest from Evonne Paddison, CEO of Access Ministries, an organisation that receives around $5 million per annum in Federal funding to place religious evangelists into Victorian schools:

We instruct our people not to proselytise. We’re not there to convert children; we’re there to educate children.

But, in a less-guarded moment, Ms Paddison was recorded telling an audience of the faithful:

Without Jesus, our students are lost…In Australia, we have a God-given open door to children and young people with the Gospel. Our federal and state governments allow us to take the Christian faith into our schools and share it. We need to go and make disciples. What really matters is seizing the God-given opportunity we have to reach kids in schools.

We have the responsibility of fulfilling the great commission of making disciples. We need to see our scripture teachers, our chaplains especially, as facilitators. We need to be missional.

How can this be? The National School Chaplaincy guidelines explicitly prohibit chaplains from proselytising! Helpfully, an Access Ministries chaplain explains how this troublesome road-block is overcome:

Now that is not always overt, CRE workers are definitely there to present the gospel, to present bible stories. Chaplains – it is not always as overt as that, it is much more covert.

One of the ways in which children are brought to God, without overt proselytising, is through the promotion of out-of-school or “Trojan-horse” activities. Promoting school camps run by the chaplains’ para-church employers is an ingenious way to remove children from the restrictions imposed by the National School Chaplaincy guidelines and lure them into an environment in which they can be openly evangelised. Last year alone, “over 2,500 kids went on SU (Scripture Union) Queensland camps where many committed their lives to Jesus,” Scripture Union boasted in a 2006 newsletter (since deleted from the internet).

Similarly, many chaplains encourage their schools to run Hillsong Church’s “Shine” program (for girls) and “Strength” (for boys). These “self-esteem courses” are promoted as “community-based,” but are actually Trojan-horse programs designed to get evangelical Christians into schools to recruit “un-churched” children.

Shine volunteer Sunshine Wretham is a case in point…

The comment that stands out:

important to me because it gives me an opportunity to connect with the girls out there; it gives the Church an opportunity to have a foot in the door…and to give them those principles that my mum gave me that I know they might not get if they’re not in a Christian family. I want to see these young girls come to knowledge of Salvation; to get to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

Last October, Ron Williams, the plaintiff in two High Court Challenges against school chaplaincy, screened the Shine promotional video at the University of Southern Queensland’s After Williams colloquium. Scripture Union Queensland’s CEO, Peter James, was unperturbed. I was in the audience when Mr James laughingly reassured the assembled academics that Shine has nothing to do with Scripture Union or chaplaincy – insinuating, with a winning smile, that Williams had it all arse-up.

Like Mr James, I was also in the High Court of Australia a few weeks ago when Scripture Union’s barrister David Jackson QC stood at the bar table and, specifically and deliberately, cited Shine as one of the benefits of Scripture Union Queensland’s chaplaincy program.

Peter James follows a fine tradition of studied inconsistency. During his tenure, former Scripture Union CEO, Tim Mander, made equally contradictory statements about the role of school chaplains.

“A key piece of misinformation,” says Mander in an article for Online Opinion, “…is the false assertion that chaplains are there to proselytise.”

Yet, in an article on Christian Today Australia, Mander is unequivocal about the role SUQ chaplains play:

Our school chaplains are…making sensational inroads in bringing young people, their families, and entire communities, into a closer relationship with God.

How is that achieved if not through evangelising and proselytising – either overtly or covertly?

Placing religious chaplains into state schools forces them to choose between two conflicting directives: Christ’s commission to go and “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations’ guidelines.

In 2012, Scripture Union state-school chaplain, Ryan Cloos revealed the urgency of the chaplain’s task on his Facebook page:

…Diploma of Youth Work will soon be mine!

If 2012 is the end of the world I’m taking as many people as I can to heaven with me.

Both chaplains and chaplaincy providers have made it clear – chaplaincy is about making disciples. A Queensland school chaplain recently wrote 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.

Frankly, as chappie David Hockey explains, it’s a bit naïve to think a religious chaplain isn’t going to proselytise! In an interview with ABC’s Compass program, Hockey says:

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.

Hockey only says what is self-evident: you simply can’t put religious evangelists into schools and expect them not to proselytise.

I like Ron Williams’ analogy:

We may as well spend millions of dollars on a National School Clowns Program. Let’s put clowns into schools to make kids happy, and then make it clear in the guidelines that clowns are prohibited from being funny.

Send in the clowns!

Chrys Stevenson

Chrys Stevenson is a freelance writer, blogger, speaker and social activist. Her main interest is the intersection of religion and politics. Chrys has written widely on school chaplaincy and Ron Williams' High Court challenges against it.

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  1. Andrew Wilson said:

    So… they do nothing then. Well, I thoughts stills stand. A counsellor is what is need, a qualified counsellor, not a person that does absolutely not a single useful thing.

    Money being wasted in the name of “support”. I say in the name of, because it is obviously not being given to support students in need.

    They are there to support a students faith? It pre-proposes that all students are of faith, or will be fixed by the presence on one of faith. So, magic thinking person will ethereally impart a cure for the students ills. I guess later, the current Government will subsidise magic crystals for study aids…

  2. Girl Downunder said:

    I have a crazy idea: have trained counsellors provide secular counselling in secular schools! Have chaplains provide religious counselling- in churches!!

    Problem solved.

  3. Andrew Skegg said:

    “You claim every example here that chaplains are good for children and do take workplace rules seriously is unrepresentative of chaplains”

    This sentence is difficult to parse, but let me respond to what I think you’re attempting to say:

    I have not claimed all chaplains are good for children, in fact I have claimed the opposite. Further, I reject the fundamental philosophy of the NSCP that ONLY religious people are capable of providing support to troubled children.

  4. Vance Erden said:

    There is no doubt whatsoever that many chaplains are expected to promote Christianity to children in public schools, despite their supposed “work contract”.

    Scripture Union Qld, one of the largest chaplaincy providers, makes this quite clear in a brochure called ‘Bringing hope to a young generation through your bequest’ :

    “‘Generation Y’ is recorded as the most unchurched generation in history. Conservative estimates indicate that more than 90% of Australian children are not connected to the ministry programs of local churches … The local school chaplain is often now the only avenue for young people to have contact with local Christians. What an opportunity! Chaplains provide a platform to demonstrate God’s love and communicate the Christian message through SU Qld cluster camps, after school clubs, and local church youth and children’s groups/activities.”

  5. Andrew Skegg said:

    … asks people not to link to blogs as they’re not evidence, links to wiki which has no evidence.

  6. Andrew Skegg said:

    See my comment above. Further, you will note my primary objection is to the basis of their employment. It’s discriminatory, divisive, and disgusting.

  7. Nathan said:

    You claim every example here that chaplains are good for children and do take workplace rules seriously is unrepresentative of chaplains. Lets see your proof this is the case then please supply reference proving this (not links that lead to another opinion blog though that isn’t proof).

  8. Nathan said:

    “This is clearly not the case” you say Andrew lets see the reference for that where you show us with evidence of chaplains converting and preaching to children in schools. If it is actually happening and not just an opinion it is happening then you would have some proof of it as the source of your statement which is supposedly not based on an opinion.

  9. Nathan said:

    One big problem with those references is they do not confirm your statements about chaplaincy. For example you state that chaplains are pushing their views on students to convert them in their capacity as chaplains but then in support of this quote the chaplaincy organisation as saying they do preach the gospel however this comment is not in relation to chaplaincy is it because in another quote you have said they say they claim they don’t do that in chaplaincy positions. Of course a church preaches the gospel and will openly state this, but this is not proof they are breaking their chaplaincy agreement and you certainly provided no proof that had actually occurred.

  10. Nathan said:

    Chrys has not researched the chaplaincy program or she would know that whether a person is working in a secular or Christian position they are not allowed in their work contract to push any personal beliefs on the clients.

  11. Nathan said:

    She is clearly not a professional in human services. This is evident in her lack of skills in proper referencing (something a professional learns in university) and a lack of knowledge about human services, chaplaincy and journalism.

  12. Nathan said:

    Which part of my reply to Chrys is “poor grammar and punctuation”?

  13. Maureen Chuck said:

    I love that you criticise Chrys’s writing skills with such poor grammar and punctuation.

  14. Michael Barnett said:

    You didn’t do Jewish Studies at this Jewish school? No Torah? Vayikra? I went to Jewish schools too – day schools and Sunday schools – from my earliest memory, intermittently, through to my mid-teens. They taught me homosexuality and masturbation were forbidden. These days other Jewish schools are less archaic and teach inclusion and unconditional acceptance.

    So to claim attendence of a Jewish school that teaches “good values” is a subjective statement, as “good values” are relative, considering intolerance of homosexuality is not what I’d consider a “good value”.

    I don’t know why you made a personal attack on me. I didn’t make a personal attack on you Laurie.

  15. laurie said:

    I will reply to this politely even though you clearly don’t deserve it Michael….but neither subject was ever mentioned or discussed

  16. Dane Curbow said:

    Kid goes to counselor with a problem. A trained counselor will ask questions and help the student through the problem. The chaplain, well he has the answer to your problems and they are all due to a lack of god, faith in jesus, and your everlasting soul being in peril.

  17. Grizzly Adams said:

    “We’re not there to convert children; we’re there to educate children.”…and by educate, she means convert…just sayin

  18. chrysstevenson said:

    Andrew, just to clarify, chaplains are generally not allowed to counsel. In some states they can if they have ‘appropriate’ qualifications, but it’s hard to get DEEWR to clarify what they think is ‘appropriate’. In Queensland, even if ‘appropriately’ qualified, chaplains are not permitted to provide counseling. Don’t feel bad about not knowing this – even Scripture Union’s QC had to be enlightened by one of the High Court Justices after he argued that grief counselling was one of the program’s benefits. It was a balls up of magnificent proportions. The point is, they’re not allowed to proselytise – and yet their expected to share their (supposedly Christian) values. They’re there to provide welfare support, and yet they’re not allowed to counsel. As Lawrence Krauss said on Q&A, what is it, exactly, that they do?

  19. Andrew Wilson said:

    This is a great article. Spot on.

    Under the Chaplaincy Program, I, as an ordained minister for the Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster, could apply, and under those rules, be accepted in the same vain as any other chaplain.

    Is this a mockery? Well, yes. Yes it is. The chaplain program is a mockery, because any un-trained counselor, not a psychologist nor accredited counselor, is put in a school to ‘counsel’ youth, most likely troubled youth, and they are meant to be of a neutral position. Even if they undertake training, they are not there under the banner of counselor, they are their under the banner of chaplain. That stated the objective fairly clearly, don’t you think? I do.

    If you want counselors of a neutral position, not pushing a religious agenda, but just counseling, then use trained counselors, NOT chaplains.

    A religious chaplain is just that, a religious chaplain.

    A counselor is just that, and should be just that. A counselor.

  20. Michael Barnett said:

    Was it the sort of Jewish school that taught you homosexuality and masturbation was evil or acceptable?

  21. Jayel said:

    Laurie, go to the Youtube site itself. This is what it says.

    “Sunshine, from our Kings Noosa congregation runs “Shine” in a local school helping young girls find pupose” [sic]

  22. Andrew Skegg said:

    You are assuming ALL chaplains are the same as yourself. This is clearly not the case.

    Moreover – it is the fact chaplains will now revert to being employed on the basis of their professed religious faith rather than their qualifications or experience. Our kids deserve better, and so does the Australian tax payer.

  23. Andrew Skegg said:

    You’re taking one example and assuming ALL chaplains operate the same way. This is demonstrably false. Even so, it is the basis of their employment that is wrong, not how much good chaplains may do.

  24. Andrew Skegg said:

    While she may be the best person in the world, she has been employed on the basis of her religious beliefs rather than her qualification and experience. This is clearly wrong.

  25. fantastic said:

    Nathan, you may think calling Chrys “hun” gives off an air of cool condescension, puts her in her place, but actually it just makes you sound like a sexist pig. You wouldn’t call a bloke “hun” now, would you. You want to talk about professionalism? You just lost the pretence that you had any.

  26. Val in Australia said:

    “There is no credible references..” Perhaps you need to review your grammar rules before critiquing others?

  27. Troy Simpson said:

    Nathan, you just got pwned, hun.

  28. KayeD said:

    Whoa Nathan …punching way above your weight there. I would pay good money to watch Chrys Stevenson take you apart live. Jelly Bean is right “man you got owned!”

  29. Gary Bothwell said:

    Did you actually read the article Nathan or did you just ‘see’ it? Or are you merely just happy for our kids to be indoctrinated by untrained evangelists, so you feel threatened by articles such as this?

  30. Jelly Bean said:

    HAHHAAHA OH MY GOD you got OWNED nathan go CHRYS!!!!!!! I love smart woman like you!!!!! HUN! hahhahahahhahahahahahha

  31. chrysstevenson said:

    OK, let’s look at the references:

    1 (a) and (b): Links to the actual recorded words of Access CEO Evonne Paddison – links to ABC’s Lateline and The Age newspaper. Age article includes a video with Paddison saying the words I attribute to her.

    2. The Access Ministries chaplain quote links to an ABC Lateline story in which a recording of the chaplain’s words were played – verbatim.

    3. Quote from a Scripture Union 2006 newsletter – links to both my blog and the page from which it was sourced. We find that as soon as these ‘tellling’ quotes are made publicly they are ‘disappeared’. It’s common practice and why we usually take screen shots or archive pages now.

    4. Link to Sydney Morning Herald article by an award-winning journalist using material from people who have experienced the Shine program first-hand.

    5. Video of Shine volunteer, Sunshine Wretham, confirming in her own words that Shine is about bringing children to God.

    6. Link to details of an academic colloquium I attended along with Peter James of Scripture Union Queensland.

    7. Link to the transcript from the High Court hearing in Williams (2) so the reader can verify that Scripture Union’s QC did, indeed, cite Shine as a ‘benefit’ of chaplaincy.

    8. A direct quote from an article by Scripture Union’s Tim Mander.

    9. A direct quote from Mander (taken from an SUQ media release) on a Christian online site.

    10. A direct quote from a chaplain from his own blog (cited in the Courier-Mail. As usual, the blog has been ‘disappeared’ – – But I took a screenshot which appears on my blog here:

    11. A link to a transcript from ABC’s Compass program which quotes David Hockey, chaplain,directly, in his own words.

    I do not, and will never, call myself a journalist. I am a freelance writer. It’s there in black and white on my bio on this page. And Nathan, don’t call me ‘hun’.

  32. Jelly Bean said:

    And in response to Vanessa I hope that the kids I looked after think of me as someone who imparted into their lives not as a christian person they knew!! I wanted to be more than that to them! Anyway I will stop now. Thanks so much for letting us debate this 🙂

  33. Jelly Bean said:

    Also sorry have a look at this site about chaplaincy – It should still have student welfare program in the title!!!!!!!! Terrible

    Funding under the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program ceases on 30 June 2014, with services under the programme terminating on 31 December 2014.

    Effective from 1 January 2015, the National School Chaplaincy Programme will replace the existing National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program. For more information on the new National School Chaplaincy Programme, please refer to the programme page.

    Want to know more?

    1300 363 079

    [email protected], or

    For complaints, [email protected], or fill in the online complaints form

  34. Jelly Bean said:

    Yeah I don’t blame you for asking!!! I definitely feel we should keep those two things religion and schools apart to a degree but I really did love my chaplaincy job as well!! Have a great day Jayel!

  35. Jelly Bean said:

    Why would you guys approve this comment? I know you believe in not censoring and everyone having a right but this is onbiously spam or a competitor to you guys! Great site I love it. It’s rare in Australia to have an opinion site that covers both sides of politics and different opinions I love it! And Chrys you are a great writer! This article was buzzing around my office yesterday 🙂

  36. Jayel said:

    Thanks for your reply, JB. I was asking because when I suggested that our chaplain could stay on in the capacity of a welfare worker instead because the job was exactly the same, just without the religious trappings, I was told that she probably wouldn’t want to do that because she was “really loyal to Scripture Union”. It’s good to hear that your priorities are different. Cheers.

  37. Nathan said:

    This is the worst written article I have seen for a long time. There is no credible references for any of these claims all of the links that supposedly support these claims go to opinion blogs of other like-minded people or news articles quoting such people. And you consider yourself a journalist Chrys? Hardly! Journalists know how to reference and back up what they say with actual facts. Don’t give up your day job to become a journalist hun only trashy opinion sites like this will accept your poor writing style.

  38. Jelly Bean said:

    Yes in a heartbeat! It just happened that I stumbled across that kind of role in the schools because of my youth group, but my mission was not to turn the schools into a youth group! That is what I did on friday nights, at the time I was a youth leader and also did church activities on the weekend. But during the week I never saw my role as a chaplain as anything to do with christianity. But just there to help kids, I saw so many kids in crisis and so many kids who couldn’t confide in their parents or teachers. They felt safer with me cos I wasn’t a teacher and I wasn’t a counsellor. There is still a stigma for students to see a counsellor.

  39. Jayel said:

    Glad to hear that Jelly Bean. Would you do exactly the same job if it wasn’t called chaplaincy, it wasn’t a religious organisation in the role of employer and the selection criteria didn’t include a requirement to be religious? Genuine question.

  40. KayeD said:

    I think the point about Sunshine is that she is a product of her own product. She might be a delightful young person and good for her, but she has been subjected to the same brainwashing technique that she is now espousing be used on other people’s children. I don’t really have a problem with Jehovah’s Witnesses but I do have a problem with them coming uninvited onto my property and their whacky beliefs denying their children life saving medical treatment. In the case of Sunshine, would she do what she does if she wasn’t evangelising, proselytising or otherwise injecting her relationship with her personal god into what she does?

    I’ve had many years experience in the community services sector and by far the most staff warnings that I ever had to issue was to staff who were inflicting their own values about religion onto vulnerable people with mental illness or intellectual disability, and the worst offenders were the young, shiny eyed happy clappers from the local charismatic cults. They were absolute in their right to “save” people and everyone of them was “a nice young person”. They simply didn’t understand that it was not part of their job, even though it was clearly in policy and staff code of conduct that they were not to do it, and they often would not take “no” for an answer. They were so indoctrinated that they hadn’t even considered another perspective and that perspective might have been atheist, pagan or anything else. Religious education is a personal journey and absolutely needs to be kept private in people’s homes. If kids need sanctuary at school then provide it with qualified counsellors but sanctuary does not and should not be linked to anyone else’s personal god.

  41. Jelly Bean said:

    I spent 3 years as a chaplain in the Hawkesbury and I never once used it to preach God or invite the kids to church. My duty was not that. Don’t be so quick to judge us.

  42. laurie said:

    I don’t actually Anthony….First of all I was talking about Weinburg’s heritage more than his religous persuasion…I am not actually a religous man but there is nothing I loathe more than people who think they are so superior intellectually…you seem to be one of those…All I have been trying to point out from the beginning is that Sunshine has her beliefs and whether you in your clearly superior way believe she is some sort of brainwasher is of no interest to me. All I said was I know her as a person…she is a wonderful lady who believes in something good and pure…and in this article in this context she is being made out to be otherwise. I don’t believe religous views are superior I just don’t feel there is any great conspiracy…you seem to think there is.

  43. Vanessa said:

    it didn’t have to be a religious person, I agree but she did a great job. Help comes in many forms and I am glad she was part of our lives.

  44. Anthony Hobbs said:

    “That is wrong…it is a by product of what she does…which is mentor young girls and teach them values…”

    Yeah… Religious “values”, which again, you seem to think is the most superior for no good reason at all.

  45. Anthony Hobbs said:

    **Steven Weinburg. He is actually an atheist , nobel prize winning physicist. Who is making the sweeping generalisations now? What has Jewish heritage got to do with anything?! So, you continue with a strawman argument, as well as a false cause fallacy. No, I think THAT is case and point in regard to your cognitive dissidence.
    You seem to make the assumption that Religious values are in some way superior, but give no reasons for it.
    Anti-vaxxers used the Texas sharpshooter fallacy, by the way, not sweeping generalisations. They target only the facts that back their claims while ignoring others that dispute it in order to back their confirmation bias. This is what you seem to be doing, not me.
    If you really want your daughter to learn HOW to think and not WHAT to think, then traditional Christian “values”, or even traditional Jewish “values” are not the answer.

    “[Shine is] important to me because it gives me an opportunity to connect with the girls out there; it gives the Church an opportunity to have a foot in the door…and to give them those principles that my mum gave me that I know they might not get if they’re not in a Christian family. I want to see these young girls come to knowledge of Salvation; to get to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.”

    If you believe for a moment that a woman who states something like this is not trying to brainwash your kids, then you really need to have a look at your own critical thinking ability. What reason do you have for thinking this woman’s values are superior to secular ethics, exactly?

  46. Jayel said:

    Vanessa, I’m really glad your chaplain helped you and the other students out. Perhaps you realise that it doesn’t need to be a religious person to do those same things. Re the secular counselor (who may also have been religious, but you’d not necessarily know), again there will be some who are good and others not so good, and perhaps there were legislative imperatives specific to that role which required them to get police involved.

  47. Jayel said:

    Laurie, you’re the one who initially brought up the topic of Sunshine’s character, not anyone else. In my first reply to you I even said it wasn’t about whether she was nice or not. In following comments all I did, and indeed the article did, was cite what she herself said: that her motivation was that she wants the young girls come to know Jesus and give them values they might not get if they’re not from Christian homes. What is ‘hidden’ about that motive and why are you refusing to acknowledge it? And, by-product? Are you saying that the girls will naturally be drawn to the Christian faith if you are kind to them, show them how to do their hair and make-up and tell them they have value, without mentioning god/Jesus/salvation, or at least encouraging them to come to church to find out about those things? Is it just an osmotic effect? If citing her words equates to ridicule, then you must think she has ridiculed herself. I do stand by the opinion that some of the statements seem arrogant because they appear to imply that the only values worth having are Christian ones and she clearly says girls *need* a Godly perspective. Really? DanDare refutes this claim succinctly in his comment above.

    However, having said all that, I think the commentary here has been derailed by unnecessary focus on this woman’s character, which you initiated. The article cites this program as one that is introduced into schools by some chaplains. Claiming that they are community-based is highly disingenuous at best. Sunshine was obviously happy to explain the program on a video. and that video has simply been used to illustrate the religious nature of that program. This program is just one indirect way of bringing children to Jesus – getting them on SU camps and connecting them to local churches being others in their repertoire. There is no conspiracy theory, Laurie, because SU Qld’s own words damn themselves. Google SU Qld’s brochure on bequests. Access Ministries is also clear about their aims for chaplaincy if you care to look. No need to feel sorry for me, I’ve actually done the research.

    I wasn’t actually alluding specifically to the vast amount of subsidies that religious organisations receive through tax concessions, etc., but that is certainly one glaring privilege which costs each and every one of us. Did you ever consider that the chaplaincy program delivers even more into the coffers of the already privileged religious organisations – that SU, Access, GenR8 and other employing authorities get 20% of the funding as administrative costs? Did you know that the chaplains themselves can get their salary packaged to include the option of a Fringe Benefits component which “provides significant benefit in comparison with fully-taxed equivalent salaries”, just because they’re religious. How can anyone support such discriminatory practices?

  48. laurie said:

    My daughter will decide for herself what is right or wrong Anthony and it will be her choice based on her beliefs not yours not mine…It staggers me how you past judgement on a person or persons you’ve never met. Espeacially in this case. I love sweeping generalisations aren’t they handy when you want to convince yourself that yours is the only truth. I believe this metod is used by those who support the anti-vaccination argument as well…Your quote from Mark Weinberg who with a name like that is probably Jewish like me is a case in point. A sweeping generalisation that is irrelavent here

  49. Vanessa said:

    I went to a multicultural, multi-faith school in a pretty tough inner suburb. To be honest, I didn’t even realise the chaplain had anything to do with a church. She was an older woman named Barb and everyone loved her. Her office was a place of refuge when things got too much in the school yard, she’d put on a cuppa and chat about art, family, and any issues you had. She had a stockpile of items for uniform that us kids who were doing it tough at home were welcome to. We’d get a detention without the right uniform on. Barb was preferred over the secular counsellor who would always try to get the police involved if there was a whiff of trouble. She was just this non judgmental mother figure who wasn’t really part of the school system, which we needed. I don’t agree with the allocation of funding for chaplains when there have been such deep cuts elsewhere but I feel like sticking up for all the chaplains out there who made an enormous difference to school kids. Attack the shi house budget, not the people who are at the bottom of the chain of command.

  50. laurie said:

    I think your alluding to the fact that religious organizations don’t pay tax…which I believe amounts to around 20 billion dollars in lost revenue and for what its worth I agree with you vehemently….What I resent here is and it seems we are going to have to agree to disagree is that Sunshine’s character is being ridiculed by you and this article because you feel she has some sort of conspiracy operating to recruit young girls under the guise of turning them into Christians…That is wrong…it is a by product of what she does…which is mentor young girls and teach them values…people who view everything as a conspiracy and that people who try to help always have some sort of hidden motive for their actions just quite frankly make me sad…not for me but for you

  51. Anthony Hobbs said:

    You are creating a strawman argument. This isn’t about the entertainment industry vs. religious “values”. This is about secularist ethics vs religious “values”.
    Most positive human rights we have today have come through secular values, not religious tradition. Aside from the fact that tradition alone is a terrible reason to continue on with outdated views on morality, religious views tend to bring on more bigotry and ignorance than anything else.
    I think your opinion that Sunshine is not pushing anything is fueled mainly by cognitive dissidence. I certainly would not want anyone who thinks homosexuals, atheists or people from another religion will one day burn in hell for all eternity near my children.
    People who teach these things are psychological child abusers, no matter how outwardly nice they appear to be.
    So, moving onto reality, do you REALLY think it’s a good idea to trust a person who ignores the immense amount of evidence for proven theories like the quantum theory and the theory of evolution? Instead, evangelical Christians believe the Earth is 6-10000 years old and that evolution, climate change and the big bang are conspiracies made up by the world’s scientists, fooled by the devil. I agree, that conspiracies are often ridiculous. Yet, there you are, letting someone near your children who believes in the most deluded of conspiracies. Can you seriously not see the problem there?!
    So, to you, someone who is deluded enough to believe their own lies in the face of all evidence, is worse than social media, etc?! Riiiight.
    Lastly, I’ll add that most evangelical Christians are outwardly nice and sweet – but misguided, yet often very sly when it comes to using underhanded tactics. All you need to is get past your cognitive dissidence, use some critical-thinking and skepticism and they become obvious.

    “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
    ― Steven Weinberg

  52. school_parent said:

    It is with interest that I read the remarks by Mr James from the Queensland Scripture Union. Here In tasmania both Christian religious Education and a majority of chaplains are provided by the Scripture Union and as part of the chaplaincy Week celebrations a local paper the Examiner ran a story about Exeter high School chaplain Crystal Dobson a scripture union chaplain and an ex child protection worker. Crystal Dobson said she organised lunchtime activities and encourage positive self esteem with the SHINE program and the schools pamper room.
    The scripture union here is now telling members of local chaplaincy groups that they are positive about the possible outcome of the latest high court challenge. As a parent who is not a supporter of this program I hope their optimism is misplaced. I asked my school that if they were going to go ahead with the shine program for girls I suggest that they should modify the Hillsong strength program for boys for those girls who like their mums are feminists.

    The item can be found on

  53. DanDare2050 said:

    You don’t need religion to have good values. You need good role models. I propose that people who work a system saying one thing so that they can then do the opposite are very bad role models, religious or not.

    Teachers in all schools have religious beliefs but their “mission” is always to be good teachers and role models.

    School councillors may have religious beliefs but their mission is to use best practice in their field to meet the needs of the children, even where it may conflict with their religous beliefs.

    The mission of chaplains, as this article shows, is a religious one, an evangelical one, and tied to the specific religion and sect of the chaplain, in conflict with the desires of many parents and schools should not host a role with that purpose.

  54. BellevueBBlue said:

    My issue is less around religious affiliation and more about using personal bias to affect those who have no ability to discern. There is simply no place for religion in public schools. These lovely people (which I have absolutely no doubt they are genuine and with the best of intentions) should find less intrusive ways of impacting our youth. But certainly not under the guise of a ‘school chaplain’.

  55. Jayel said:

    The following are taken directly from the video clip above:

    “…needing influence from a Godly perspective…”, “The program…gives the church the opportunity to have a foot in the door…”, “…to give them those principles that my mum gave me that I know they might not get if they’re not in a Christian family”, “I want to see these young girls come to knowledge of salvation, to know Jesus Christ as their lord and saviour.”

    Pretty obvious and pretty arrogant. Some chaplains use the Shine program in their schools, despite the supposedly clear directive against proselytizing. Facilitators are complicit in that. Just because they get away with it doesn’t make it right. According to your values is it acceptable to get around the guidelines in this way? Why? Do you think religion is needed to impart good values, and therefore excuses sneaky behaviour?

    I also don’t think that excessively focusing on appearances is the right way to teach girls, or boys for that matter, about their inherent worth.

    I have no time for religion personally, but understand that others do. My tolerance for religion evaporates when the religious expect to receive privileges, exemptions, subsidies and/or dispensations for their belief at the expense of the rights of others.

  56. laurie said:

    Yes I did read it…and I’m actually Jewish so now whose making assumptions….I actually don’t have much truck for the Hillsong church or how they operate…But Jayel there is no conspiracy here Sunshine just tries to help young girls have good values…she has never tried to push my daughter towards the church and she doesn’t go…I would much rather my daughter recieved mentoring from Sunshine than what she recieves from this current world of celebrity, Kardashians and social media….You seem to hate religion good luck to you that is your choice but don’t make assumptions about me or my values…I went to a jewish primary school and it taught me if nothing else good values…I am not religous now but I have high tolerance and admiration for those that are

  57. Jeff and Samantha said:

    I’m sure Sunshine, as well as all the Chaplains, are “lovely” people – that is not the issue.
    Nobody has the right to promote religion in public (supposedly) SECULAR schools.

  58. Jayel said:

    This is not about whether Sunshine is a nice person or not. Did you even read the article? Every assertion is backed up with a reference to the source material. It’s in black and white. Take off the blinkers. If Access and SU were pushing Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Scientology or any religion other than Christianity, you would no doubt be up in arms.

  59. laurie said:

    Gee everything is a conspiracy isn’t it. I know Sunshine and she is a lovely girl who has been very kind to my young daughter both as a mentor and a friend.

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