21 May 2011

Australian Anglican bishop denies evangelical group is using school chaplain program to convert children to Christianity

The Age  -   Australia          May 13, 2011

We are not trying to convert kids: Bishop

by Jewel Topsfield, Mex Cooper

The Christian group responsible for religious education in Victorian government schools has denied it is trying to convert children to its faith.

Access Ministries chair Bishop Stephen Hale defended the role played by its religious educators and chaplains in schools, who he said did not breach government guidelines.

The Age revealed today that Access Ministries chief executive Evonne Paddison told a church conference in 2008: "We need to go and make disciples".

"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," she told the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion national conference in Melbourne.

Bishop Hale said despite Dr Paddison's comments, which will be investigated by state and federal governments, Access Ministries was not proselytising to students.

"We're not actually seeking to convert them and she may have given that impression but I don't think that's what we actually do in reality," he told ABC 774.

Bishop Hale described teaching children Christian stories and values without pressuring them to adopt Christianity as "a pretty tricky exercise".

"We are extremely respectful of the balancing act that's involved," he said.

He said teachers remained in classrooms during religious instruction and if guidelines were being breached there would be more complaints.

The Victorian branch president of the Australian Education Union, Mary Bluett, said most volunteers appeared to adhere to the guidelines but there had been some shocking examples.

"Comments such as, 'Buddha is Satan's friend' ... and things like that clearly breach the guidelines," she said.

Ms Bluett said religious instruction should be offered outside of school hours.

Schools Minister Peter Garrett said he would look closely at Dr Paddison's remarks after being provided with a recording from the conference.

He will ask his department for advice on any action that might need to be taken.

"The guidelines for the National School Chaplaincy Program are very clear; any breach of those guidelines will be investigated," Mr Garrett said. "If there is any evidence of a breach it should be referred to the department for investigation."

Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon said the Victorian government did not "in any way, shape or form condone proselytising".

"We will be talking to Access Ministries and seeking an assurance from them that their instructors abide by this requirement," Mr Dixon said.

Access Ministries provides chaplains to 281 Victorian schools and its volunteers teach 96 per cent of special religious instruction in Victorian schools.

The Victorian government announced an extra $200,000 a year to Access Ministries in this month's budget to fund 196 chaplains. This brings the total state government contribution to $500,000 a year for four years.

The national school chaplaincy program, introduced by the Howard government, also received a $222 million boost in this week's federal budget, to fund chaplains for up to 3700 schools by 2014.

The code of conduct for the school chaplaincy program states: "A chaplain should not take advantage of his or her privileged position to proselytise for that denomination or religious belief."

with Alana Rosenbaum

This article was found at:


Australian evangelical group aims to convert children through government funded school religious programs

Sex abuse victim slams 'hypocrisy' of church and Archbishop

An iconoclast gathers his heretical flock

Anglican Priest faces child sex charges

Parents exploit son's imaginary return trip to Heaven in book being sold to the gullible as nonfiction

Canadian Supreme Court hears case pitting religious freedom of parents against religious freedom of their children

Dublin Archbishop says Irish church not indoctrinating enough children, secular society advancing

German teen expelled from government funded Catholic school after exercising her human right to religious freedom

UK theology think tank says it is wrong to exclude God from classroom, superstition and reason should be equal partners

Secularists campaign to change UK law that makes religious assemblies in schools compulsory, government and church resist

Groups call on British government to replace compulsory collective worship in schools with inclusive assemblies

U.K. school inspectors report that Christian theology and non-religious beliefs not being adequately taught in compulsory religious education classes

European Court of Human Rights says crucifix not a symbol of indoctrination, reverses ban in Italian public schools

European Court of Human Rights rules crucifixes in Italian schools violates children's religious freedom to believe or not

Nebraska education administrators get mixed messages from lawyers on legality of promoting religion in schools


  1. At the May 9 Canberra (final) directions hearing, the matter of Williams v Commonwealth of Australia & Ors was listed for hearing by the
    Full Bench of the High Court of Australia in Canberra on 9th, 10th & 11th of August 2011. Within the federal budget announcedon May 10, $222 million has been provided to the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP). The funds, in the words of Education Minister Peter Garrett, will enable schools: "to support the spiritual wellbeing of their students".

    For more information on this court challenge to the religious indoctrination of students in Australia go to:


  2. Chaplains safe despite High Court ruling: Roxon

    by Dan Harrison and Bianca Hall, Sydney Morning Herald June 20, 2012

    The High Court has ruled that the national school chaplaincy program is constitutionally invalid because it exceeds the Commonwealth's funding powers.

    But Attorney General Nicola Roxon has told reporters in Canberra the government would continue funding the program, despite the landmark ruling.

    In its decision, one that could cast doubt on other areas of Commonwealth funding, the court this morning upheld a challenge to the scheme by Queensland father Ron Williams.

    The Howard government introduced the scheme in 2007, offering schools up to $20,000 a year to introduce or extend chaplaincy services.

    One of Australia's leading constitutional lawyers George Williams said the implications of the case were massive and could potentially affect any program directly funded by the federal government.

    This would include the local government Roads Recovery program and even direct funding of private schools.

    ''This sets down very significant limits on the ability of the Commonwealth to spend money,'' Professor Williams said.
    ''I suspect this decision will embolden people to challenge Commonwealth expenditure in other areas.''

    Professor Williams said that, while the Commonwealth could still provide funding, it may have to be through the states, rather than funding programs directly, which had been its preference.

    ''This may lead the Commonwealth to engage in a major rethink of its budgetary processes - what it spends money on and how it does that,'' he said. "This is very likely to be the biggest High Court case of the year."

    About 2700 schools have received funding under the program to date. The Gillard government has promised to extend the scheme to up to 1000 further schools.

    Professor Williams said the High Court had found the Commonwealth lacked the power to fund chaplains via executive action without accompanying legislation.

    "The Commonwealth might go back and try and support the chaplaincy program with legislation but it's far from clear the High Court would uphold the chaplaincy program even with legislation," he said.

    Ms Roxon said the government was committed to the program and there were different ways that it would be able to ensure funding for it.

    ''Governments of both persuasions of past years have relied on a very broad view of the Commonwealth’s spending powers,'' she said.

    ''This decision obviously does traverse a lot of territory and we will be considering very carefully the consequences of the decision ...

    ''The direct impact is purely for the chaplains program; the indirect impact may be much more significant because this does go to the reach of executive power.''

    The next round of payments for the chaplaincy program is due later this year.

    Mr Williams, a father of four from Toowoomba, challenged the scheme on two grounds: that it violated religious freedom protections in the constitution, and exceeded Commonwealth funding powers.

    But the High Court ruled that the case did not impact on the freedom of religion, unanimously dismissing Mr Williams's charge that school chaplains' religious position breached the constitution.

    continued in next comment...

  3. continued from previous comment:

    The constitution says that "no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth" and Mr Williams had argued that the definition of school chaplains included a "religious test" for office.

    But the court found that school chaplains were not Commonwealth employees, but rather were engaged by an external organisation, Scripture Union Queensland, and the Commonwealth did not enter into contractual or other arrangements with the chaplains.

    But by majority the court held that the funding agreement between chaplaincy provider Scripture Union Queensland and the Commonwealth was invalid because it was beyond the executive power of the Commonwealth.

    Because there is no legislation authorising the agreement, the Commonwealth argued the payments were supported by the executive power granted by section 61 of the constitution, which provides that the executive power "extends to the execution and maintenance of this constitution, and of the laws of the Commonwealth".

    But the majority of the court rejected this, finding that section 61 did not empower the Commonwealth to enter into the funding agreement or make the challenged payments.

    Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the government would carefully review the decision to determine if it might have wider implications.

    However, she said the government was committed to maintaining funding for important community programs.

    "The only government program that was challenged and invalidated by this decision was the National School Chaplaincy Program," Ms Roxon said.

    "The Commonwealth has undertaken contingency planning for this decision, as we do for every High Court matter involving Commonwealth funding."

    Mr Williams said he was elated by the ruling. He thanked his legal team, including solicitor Claude Bilinsky and barristers Bret Walker, SC, and Gerald Ng, and the hundreds of supporters who had made small donations to support the case.

    He said he had launched the case to secure a secular education for his children.

    "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," he said.

    Opposition Leader Tony Abbott told reporters in Queanbeyan that he wanted the chaplaincy program to continue but noted that he hadn't yet seen the court's decision.

    "We invented the program, we support the program, we want it to continue," he said.

    "Let's have a look at the decision and let's see what the government has in mind. I think it would be a real pity if this program wasn't able to continue."

    continued in next comment...

  4. continued from previous comment:

    Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said he would work with the federal government to deal with any administrative issues and ensure the chaplaincy program could continue.

    ''I want the chamber today to know that this government is 100 per cent behind the chaplaincy program because it’s good for kids at school and it’s good for families,'' he told Queensland Parliament.

    Scripture Union Queensland, Australia's largest employer of chaplains, which was the defendant to the High Court action, said today's decision was about a particular historical funding model.

    "Even though that model might be invalid, it does not keep chaplains from supporting school communities," chief executive officer Peter James said.

    "Instead, it means that a new funding model is needed."

    The High Court decision that government funding of chaplaincy in Queensland schools is invalid is only "a technicality" and will not mean the end of the program, Australian Christian Lobby head Jim Wallace said today.

    "The government is committed to the program and I expect it will find an appropriate way of directing the funds," Brigadier Wallace said.

    "There's no challenge to the religious aspect. I'd anticipate it will move quickly - we are talking about a bureaucratic solution."

    Greens Leader Christine Milne welcomed the overturning of the school chaplains program.

    Senator Milne said that the program's funding should go towards employing counsellors and student support staff.

    "Schools across Australia need the resources to employ properly qualified counsellors, student support officers and other non-teaching staff to help students through difficult times," she said in a statement.

    Senator Milne also welcomed extra scrutiny in the parliament on spending decisions.

    "(We) have always believed that decisions of the executive, particularly the expenditure of money, should be subject to the scrutiny by the democratically elected parliament.''

    - with Jewel Topsfield, Barney Zwartz, Judith Ireland, Daniel Hurst


  5. Boy Preacher, 11, Says Skeptics Make Him More Determined to Stay in Christ

    By DAN HARRIS and CHRIS MURPHEY, ABC News August 16, 2012

    Ezekiel Stoddard may not quite be in the sixth grade and his voice has yet to break, but grown men and women kneel down before him as a prophet.

    The 11-year-old boy from Temple Hills, Md., said he was just 7 when he realized he wanted to become a preacher.

    "I had a dream," he said. "God was telling me that he wanted me to do his will."

    Even though he can barely see over the pulpit, Ezekiel preaches most Sundays at his family's church, the Fullness of Time Church in Capitol Heights, Md., and at other churches around the state.

    He said he writes his sermons himself and that he likes that he is "bringing souls over to Christ." He even said God gave him the gift of speaking in tongues and healing the sick.

    Just a few months ago, his mother, Pastor Adrienne Smith, and stepfather had Ezekiel, whom his family nicknamed "Zeek," officially ordained as an evangelical minister, which provoked a holy uproar among people who believed his ordination was inappropriate.

    "The calling of an individual is truly between God and that individual," Smith said.

    While Ezekiel's adult critics might tell him he is just a kid who doesn't have enough life experience to provide spiritual guidance, the boy preacher said their skepticism only makes him "more determined to stay in Christ."

    But at the services "Nightline" attended, that skepticism was not evident, even from older pastors.

    "At 11 years old, you're not going to preach experience, you're going to preach the Word," said Pastor Hercules Jones. "Preaching the Word carries enough power in itself to do what it's supposed to do."

    Hop on YouTube and there appears to be an explosion of child preacher videos. There's an impression that preaching is going the way of "Toddlers and Tiaras," where parents are living out their dreams through their children.

    But child preachers have been around for a while and they have long been controversial. Marjoe Gortner, a Pentecostal evangelical preacher who was ordained at age 3, created a sensation in the 1950s, but in the 1972 documentary, "Marjoe," he claimed that his act was all a money-making scheme ginned up by his parents.

    In Ezekiel's case, it is true that his parents are making money off of his preaching, as well as the gospel music act that he and his siblings have put together. But Ezekiel denies that his parents put him up to it.

    "This is something that God called me to do and that's something that God wants me to do, and this is what I want to do," he said.

    His mother also said she did not push her son into preaching and would be fine with it if he wanted to walk away from the pulpit.

    "But he will still be taught the word of God still continually," she said.

    continued in next comment...

  6. continued from previous comment:

    In between sermons, Ezekiel's parents said they give him plenty of time to be a kid, including letting him play tennis, take a trip to the pet store and eat pancakes with his brothers and sisters. Although, a Bible quiz can happen at any time.

    When asked if he is ever tempted to act out or be bad, Ezekiel simply said, "the devil tries to step in, you know, he tries to ruin things."

    But where the boy's pre-pubescent precociousness can really get him in trouble, though, is with other kids. Ezekiel said he was bullied "a couple of times" in elementary school, and kids called him names or told him he was "weird" or "freaky."

    "A lot of them will say, what happened to you? Are you still Ezekiel in there? Are you still 'Zeek' in there?" he said. "And I say, 'yes, I am. But I'm different in my spirit.'"

    Ezekiel said his defense was to ignore them, but his mother said the bullying got so bad that she pulled him out of school and now homeschools him and his siblings.

    It may be a lonely road at times, but as Ezekiel says from the pulpit, being a Christian is not supposed to be easy.

    "I'm blessed where I am," he said. "I know if I stick in the Word, God will bless me for it."


    The following document exposes the Christian evangelical movement's targeting of children for evangelizing and indoctrinating, and the tactic of using children to evangelize other children.

    2004 Forum for World Evangelization - Evangelization of Children


  7. Bishop resigns over handling of abuse claims

    ABC News Australia May 17, 2013

    An Anglican bishop on the New South Wales north coast has resigned over his handling of abuse claims at a children's home.

    The Anglican Diocese of Grafton received a number of claims in 2006 about acts of physical, sexual and psychological abuse at the North Coast Children's Home in Lismore.

    The abuse took place between the 1940s and 1980s.

    Thirty-nine of the claims were settled through negotiated payments, but two people did not accept the conditions, and seven others later came forward with similar claims.

    The offer of financial compensation was later withdrawn.

    The Right Reverend Keith Slater now acknowledges he did not pass on all the complaints to the church's professional standards director as was required.

    He says the question of legal liability clouded the issue.

    He has apologised to those involved and resigned as bishop.

    The church has vowed to cooperate with the current royal commission.


  8. The Anglican North Coast Children’s Home (Or: Better Late Than Never)

    by Lewis Blayse, Commentary on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Australia) May 21, 2013

    Keith Slater, Anglican Archbishop of Grafton, has resigned. He should have done so long ago. His resignation only comes after a “little talk” with the Anglican Primate of Australia, Phillip Aspinall, who in turn appears to have only acted after attention from the Royal Commission, in the form of a request for documents relating to the Anglican North Coast Children’s Home.

    Activist Richard “Tommy” Campion brought the abuses in the Home to public and church attention years ago. This is the point at which Slater should have resigned. However, in the words of Catholic Church bishop, Denis Hart, on a different matter (see yesterday’s posting), the resignation is “better late than never”.

    A Press Release by Slater states “I also acknowledge that, by not referring these matters, the Professional Standards Director was not provided with information that could have assisted ongoing internal and Police investigations. All information has now been provided to the Professional Standards Director who is currently liaising with the Police to ensure that all relevant information has been provided to them.”

    It is easy to see the threat of the upcoming Royal Commission scrutiny of his actions playing a role here.

    Anglican Primate Aspinall well knows how it would look if Slater had not resigned. Despite saying he has no authority over the Grafton diocese, it is clear that pressure was applied, for the good of the Anglican Church’s reputation in general.

    Another bone of contention with the Anglican Church, with regards to the North Coast Children’s Home abuses (which are among the worst this author has read about), has been that Slater took the advice of his lawyers to deny responsibility for the Home. It is claimed that it was under a local committee, not the Anglican Church.

    This is despite many indications to the contrary, including a prominent sign declaring it an Anglican Home, being in the grounds of its church and local clergy being usually involved with it. A trove.com note (see ref. below) quotes an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of Friday, 23rd. of August, 1935 which states that the Home “is controlled and maintained principally by the Church of England”.

    Splitting legal hairs like this should have been enough for Slater to resign. Slater’s weasel words included “the sticking point appears to be the almost academic legal point as to who had a duty of care at the relevant time”, yet he chose to accept this distinction to avoid responsibility.

    A key player in this drama was Rev. Pat Comben, manager of the Grafton diocese. Mr. Comben, who is usually described as a friend of former Governor-General and Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, Peter Hollingworth, supported calls for Hollingworth’s resignation (see previous posting) after a long period of support.

    continued in next comment...

  9. Mr Comben was the environment minister in the Goss Queensland Government in 1990 when cabinet decided to shred the evidence gathered during the Heiner Inquiry (see previous postings). He appeared on the Nine Network’s Sunday Program in 1999 and told viewers that cabinet was aware of child abuse at the John Oxley Youth Centre. He later retracted his claims, apparently after pressure from the Government.

    He also retracted comments to Mr. Campion about responsibility for the Home which he had described as an “Anglican place”. Mr. Comben said he had made the statement when he had only recently joined the diocese and was ignorant of the Home’s history. Comben said the home was not run by the Church, but by a “local community committee”. Presumably, Slater and the church lawyers had something to do with this change.

    The good Mr. Comben made a statement which should result in him also resigning. This was that “Any claims of abuse had to be considered in the light of different views on corporal punishment in previous eras.” The abuses that have been revealed at the ANGLICAN North Coast Children’s Home were not acceptable, or excusable, in any era.

    The details of the abuses at this Home are detailed in the links given below. The last word on the matter should be given to Mr. Campion, who was a Nikon news photograph of the year winner in the 1980s, and one of Queensland’s most prominent press photographers.

    “It is with much suffering that I urge the Royal Commission to listen to my story.”

    [Postscript: Legal Aid NSW expects a large number of compensation applications from victims as a result of the Royal Commission. However, it says it will not fund civil claims against either the church or the state government, citing "available funds and competing priorities".]

    Read more here:















    TOMORROW: Where are we yet again?