Monday, June 23, 2014

Australia's Top Court Invalidates Federal Spending For School Chaplaincy Programs

In Williams v. Commonwealth of Australia, (High Ct. of Australia, June 19, 2014), Australia's highest court held that Australia's Parliament exceeded the powers given to the national government when it provided funds for chaplaincy services in public schools run by the states. The suit was brought by an atheist parent who objected to his son learning gospel songs in school.  AP reports on the decision, suggesting that the chaplaincy program could be constitutionally funded by providing grants to the states for the program. It quotes Sydney University constitutional lawyer Anne Twomey:
They could have always done this stuff through the states under grants; they chose to do these things by direct methods and one of the reasons they did that in the past was to get directly the political kudos that come from it.... The chaplaincy program was all about getting direct political support from religious lobby groups....
A Court press release also summarizes the decision. [Thanks to Scott Mange for the lead.]