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Religion in schools

I watched a movie a few days ago. The Stoning of Soraya M. This had such an impact that I resolved to get off my arse and do something positive out there.

I'm not sure just how I could help the women of Backwater, Iran. So I thought, maybe look into strengthening secularism in my own country, or alternatively, feminism.

I attended an Atheist Meeting, for the first time in my life. It was on religion and education. The guest speaker was Lyn Alison, former senator and member of the Rationalist Society.

She talked on a number of issues, but the main one was about the chaplain program in schools.

I won't go into huge details, just a summary of what the issue is.

Brought in be the conservative previous government, and recently extended by the current one (and the PM is supposedly an atheist!?!), the Federal Govt funds schools to have chaplains. There is no funding for any other kind of counselling or youth work etc.

Chaplains supposedly take the role of youth workers, they go in schools to help the children with their issues in a range of things such as drug abuse, relationship trouble etc.

Thing is, a chaplains only necessary qualification is that they are approved by some religious authority. They don't have to be youth workers, they don't have to be educated in dealing with children, nothing. The majority, found by a study, had some kind of short chaplain program run by the churches themselves, some had better qualifications and others less.

So there is obvious issues when in-distress children go to talk to these evidently unqualified people.

Further, they are not supposed to 'proflitise' (I think that was the word) but there is no definition of this word, and there is an implication that they would talk about their religion (in the legislation) but where to draw the line? The mission statements of the religious organisations themselves are pretty evangelistic, saying how this is how they can reach young people to pass on the word of God and such and such.

Further, it is discriminatory to all children on non-Christian backgrounds. For example, one parent wrote a letter of complain to Lyn, and this is what he said. His daughter told him how she was playing hide and seek with the chaplain. He felt that he didn't want his daughter to have anything to do with this unqualified religious man. But in order to keep his child away from this man, she would have to forgoe play time in the yard, various sporting activities, etc. Obviously things that would be seriously detrimental to his daughter, thus his complaint of discrimination.

There is a case being conducted about it right now, about the consitutionality of it, I hope we win. Our constitution states that you are unable to do any kind of religious test for any public office.

To anyone who reads this blog, what would your laws or constitution say to prevent this? Or would you be faced with this rubbish too?

As a PS: although I am an atheist, I am not always above superstition I guess. I feel that the coincidence of an Iranian man talking about women in Iran at the meeting is some kind of sign that I should follow this path of action.

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