<%@ Master language="C#" %> erosion of church state separation JULIA GILLARD:A LOCAL CHURCH COULD BE BUILT WITH FEDERAL EDUCATION FUNDS





11 MARCH  2009 





The recent dispute between Christopher Pyne, as the Education Spokesperson for the Opposition, and Julia Gillard, as Education Minister reveals the extent of entanglement of church and state in Australia and enables Australian citizens to contemplate the erosion of church/state separation since the introduction of federal State Aid to church schools in the 1960s.

DOGS refer readers to the dispute between Pyne and Gillard in relation to the Building the Education Revolution. In the Guidelines at pages 7 and 11 readers discover the following statement:

Funding cannot be used for the building or refurbishment of any facility which has religious worship as its primary purpose.

Pyne considered this requirement to be:

'crazy' and 'political correctness gone mad.' (The Australian, February 25, 2009; 'School Funding Ban Mad: Pyne' in Catholic News February 26, 2009.

Julia Gillard, responded that these restrictions "made perfect sense.' She is way behind the times.

Julia Gillard Wake up to Realities:

DOGS wish to inform Julia Gillard that her 'rule' has for many years been honoured in the breach. The Roman Catholic Church  has built local churches with federal education grants. This was going on in the 1970s. The evidence  was referred to in Justice Lionel Murphy's judgement in the DOGS case as follows:

p. 633, para 41: The fact is that under the Commonwealth laws vast sums of money are being expended for the support of church schools. The result of the capital grants Acts is that great and increasing sums are being given to churches to acquire property, which can then lawfully be used for religious purposes apart altogether from schooling. Although the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1978 forbids approval of projects (for grants) "if the sole or one of the principal objects" is "to provide facilities for use, wholly or principally, for in relation to religious worship" (s. 15), this does not prevent a grant for a project as long as religious worship is not the sole or principal object, or one of the principal objects and the Act does not prevent subsequent use of the property for any purpose, even exclusive use for religious worship. The evidence showed that two Catholic parish school buildings, at Churchill and Corio in Victoria although not used wholly or principally for or in relation to religious worship, have been used for religious purposes (apart from schooling). Eighty per cent of the Catholic primary school building at Churchill in the Latrobe Valley, in Victoria was contributed by the payment of Commonwealth grants. The building is also used as the local parish church. A nearby street sign indicates that the building is a Catholic church. $127,000 of the $180,000 cost of construction of the parish primary school in Corio outside Geelong, was provided out of Commonwealth grants. Both these buildings have been used for celebration of mass for the local parish each Sunday, and for confessions each Saturday, and occasionally for other religious services. There is nothing in the challenged Acts to restrict similar use of other property obtained with moneys given to the churches pursuant to these Acts. The effect of the Grants Acts is that the wealth of the churches is increased annually by many millions of dollars of taxpayers' moneys. They have the effect of establishing religion. As Douglas J. observed "In common understanding there is no surer way of 'establishing' an institution than by financing it" (Wheeler v. Barrera (1974) 417 US 402, at p 430).

In both Churchill and Corio, street signs pointed to the federally funded Roman Catholic School as the local Roman Catholic Church itself.

It gets worse.

 State Aid Money has assisted non-educational Church activities

On 24 February, 1983, DOGS inserted two full page Advertisements: one in the Australian and the other in The Age. They were entitled: State Aid; Billion Dollar Manipulation. DOGS quote in part from this Advertisement:

Since their introduction, neither the Federal nor the Victorian State Aid Legislation has required one cent of the State Aid money to be used on Church school recurrent expenditure. Government funds have in the past and present directly and indirectly assisted church expenditure in the following areas to:

  • build and maintain local churches

  • aid church political activities

  • relocate Church real estate and pay the parish secretary

  • assist religious development of adults

  • help train religious brothers

  • build up a church holiday camp

  • keep a Catholic Women's League activity afloat

  • support the chaplaincy of a State Wide Young Christian Students Movement

What else is going on is anybody's guess. It is largely the private business of the upper echelons of the Church Bureaucracies.

It is no wonder that religious groups other than the Roman Catholic church are showing greater interest in State Aid. Why should they burden their followers to pay for all their religion - when the government through State Aid will make such a large contribution.

A cartoon published with this Advertisement is available at www.adogs.info/cartoons/7.jpg  

Twenty five years ago DOGS estimated that between 70% and 80% of the running expenses of the Roman Catholic Church were provided by Australian taxpayers. The percentage is much greater in 2009.

Taxpayers Well and Truly Taken for A Roller Coaster Ride

Over thirty years ago DOGS in an Age Advertisement dated December 2, 1977, noted that politicians had abdicated their responsibility to protect taxpayer's interests because of their fear of the sectarian church lobby. Politicians, bureaucrats and administrators followed their natural tendency to avoid confrontation with church school interests at all costs. Accountability for public money spent on church has been nominal. There has never been any real check on how churches spend the money allocated to them. There has been no public audit. They have always employed their own accountants and their financial transactions have never been available for public scrutiny. Ministerial responsibility has been a sham .

Very early in the piece the major beneficiary of State Aid, the Roman Catholic church, woke up to the lamentable weakness of those who were supposed to protect the public interest, and recognised the financial benefit of keeping "needy" schools "needy" at the same time creating further "needy" schools. They have tailored their bureaucracy to maximise the benefits of the Needs policy. In the Federal sphere alone,

It should be noted that direct federal State Aid has grown from $6 million in 1967-8 to $28 billion in the period 2009-12. These figures exclude the massive subsidisation of churches and church schools through indirect taxation expenditures ( e.g. exemptions)

Gillard Herself Entangled with the Church School Interest:

It was bad enough in the 1970s and 1980s. Entanglement of church and state in the Australian polity is now much greater. We have a federal Minister who is entangled with the church school apparatus to the point that she uses their emails for political purposes; and she is so enamoured of the church school privatisation rhetoric that she is fearful of even using the term 'public school' or 'public education.'

DOGS believe that the Church hierarchy would give enormous guffaws of laughter when faced with Gillard's restriction which is no restriction.

Meanwhile Christopher Pyne MP is taking the next step and describing the mere suggestion of rules reflecting separation of church and state as 'politically correct' and  'crazy.'  





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Last modified:Wednesday, 11 March 2009