AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL FOR THE DEFENCE OF GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS
PRESS RELEASE 423
April 7, 2011
RELIGIOUS SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY: A JOKE
Through the use of inadequate and misleading statistics the private sectarian school lobby has claimed that schools run by a highly centralised religious bureaucracy are more efficient and consequently accountable for BER capital expenditure than public systems.
A recent exposure through the Press gives the lie to the accountability argument. The exposure has only surfaced however, because there has been a falling out of the parties involved. If the public were to wait for the federal department of education to police the proper spending of public moneys, they might have to wait fifty years. Check-ups on expenditure on individual schools can be that rare. ( See Press Releases 246, 256, 270).
The whistle has been blown on a Jewish schools in Melbourne by dissatisfied parents .
The report on the first, the Yeshivah College in St. Kilda was publicised in The Age of March 18, 2011. The Yeshivah College Matter
Jewel Topsfield , in her Age report on the Yeshivah College reported that the school’s use of BER funding amounting to $2 million was being investigated by the federal department after allegations by parents that the building would be mainly used by Chabad Youth — a community organisation established to disseminate Judaism worldwide,—rather than school pupils.
Separation of Religion and the State
The above instance illustrates how public money is being spent on enterprises which are not just educational, but are openly religious. Taxpayer’s money is being employed on capital works which are used for religious benefit.
DOGS believe that this contravenes Section 116 of the Constitutions and point to the following excerpt in Justice Lionel Murphy’s dissenting judgement:
Para 39. …The Commonwealth cannot be concerned with religious teaching - that is entirely private. Section 116 recognizes that an essential condition of religious liberty is that religion be unaided by the Commonwealth…
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  USSC 117; (1974) 417 US 402, at p 430 ).
The DOGS may have lost the High Court Challenge, but they proved the point. The financing of religious institutions through taxpayer funding of their schools is financing that religion and thereby establishing it.
The interesting thing is, when these religions are under threat from alien theocracies they claim that we live in a ‘secular’ state, ’and their religious liberty is protected by the separation of religion and the State. This would only be the case if Justice Murphy’s dissent was held by the majority of the High Court.
If that was the case, then taxpayer funding of their enterprises would be unconstitutional and they would be administering genuinely independent schools. Accountability for public money would then be irrelevant.
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