Not-so-pointless poll on Australian chaplains

The Atheist Foundation of Australia would like their prime minister to answer one simple question:

Dear Prime Minister. Against the strongly expressed concerns of mental health professionals, teacher unions and secular organisations, why do you allow the outrageous situation to continue where largely unqualified, religious evangelists have access to young children in public schools, in the form of the National School Chaplaincy Program?

She’s been dodging it, of course, and I suspect that if she were backed into a corner she’d be entertainingly frantic in her efforts to escape. So let’s corner her! And she has made the mistake of making that possible.

Dear members and supporters,

OurSay is giving us the opportunity to directly ask Prime Minister
Julia Gillard a question, and we have chosen to focus on the
outrageous taxpayer funded National School Chaplaincy Program.

This Saturday, Gillard will answer three of the most popular questions
as chosen through OurSay. One of these questions could be ours.

Please follow these simple steps to make sure that we have a seat at
the table:

1) Sign up for OurSay

2) Vote seven times for our question:

3) Recruit a friend to do exactly the same

Click here to get started:

We only have until Thursday but, if we all came together – we could
make sure that this important issue is being heard by Prime Minister
Gillard and all of Australia that very Saturday.

Regards, David Nicholls

President – Atheist Foundation of Australia

PS. Make sure that you sign up and vote seven times to get an answer
from Gillard on Chaplaincy.

It’s a poll with some teeth. Let’s make Gillard dance!


  1. piscador says

    Hillard is in an unfortunate position. She’s never made her atheism a secret in the past, but now she’s the PM of a minority government with an election coming up within a year. She’s now frantically doing the old political two-step, trying to avoid alienating as much of the electorate as she can. This means that as far as she is concerned, the school chaplaincy program is a no-win situation for her.

    The worrying thing is that her opponent, Tony Abbott, is a devout catholic bordering on fundamentalism. He stands a pretty good chance of taking the election.

  2. markpursey says

    The problem with the question is that it’s unnecessarily loaded, giving options for squirming out of an answer to the central question. I’d love to see it pared back to:

    Dear Prime Minister. Why do you allow religious evangelists access to children within public schools, in the form of the National School Chaplaincy Program, against the expressed concerns of mental health professionals, teacher unions and secular organisations?

    In its current form it screams “atheist agenda!” which she’s much more likely to dodge.

    (even though she’s agnostic at the very least)

  3. jayel says

    How fantastic that this has made it to Pharyngula! Please help us secular Aussies out with this one. The high court of Australia recently deemed this chaplaincy program unconstitutional (because of the method of funding rather than a breach of church/state separation – it’s a long story), but the government simply passed some circumventing legislation in an almighty hurry and the same assault on our supposedly secular society continues unabated (although another challenge is being planned because the legislation doesn’t really address the issues raised by the high court)!

    Anyhoo, when you go to the link provided you will have to sign up before you can vote. Once you have done that you will receive an email with a link to confirm. Once you have done that, if you open up the original link again (in which the question the AFA wants the PM to answer) you should be able to go ahead and vote.

    Otherwise, if you click on the ‘go ask a question link’ and look under the ‘most votes’ tab, the question is currently sitting in about 9th place.

    I hope I’ve recalled how the sign up went correctly, ‘cos I know I had trouble figuring out how to get back to a place where I could actually vote…but maybe I’m just technologically challenged…Hope that helps rather than hinders. I would *love* to hear what our atheist, single female, ‘living in sin’ with partner PM says to justify her support for this program dominated by evangelical organisations bent on ‘making disciples’.

  4. RFW says

    ISTM that the key words are “unqualified evangelists” and “chaplain”. Anybody can speak in tongues, thump the bibble, or handle snakes, but a chaplaincy is a formal position that not just any old fool can occupy. I’m not qualified, neither is P-zed, nor most of us reading this blog.

    Just wanting to be a chaplain in no way qualifies one for the job.

    Suggestion: emphasize “Why are the chaplains unqualified people who do not have tickets in pastoral counseling? Why are the present chaplains people who are there to proselytize their own peculiar belief system instead of people who respect belief systems other than their own?”

    I would not be surprised if some of those unqualified “chaplains” are involved because they are pedophiles, btw.

    Incidentally, the reason Gilliard kisses the evangelicals’ asses is that Australia, like Israel, has a system of proportional representation that gives small religious parties undue influence in forming a government. In a first-past-the-post system like Canada’s or the US’s, this doesn’t happen, even thought Canada operates under a parliamentary system like Australia’s.

  5. colinhutton says

    @Piscador Your excuse for G rings hollow. *Prior* to the last election, which she and her backers expected would be breeze-in, she suddenly announced during the campaign that she would provide an additional $200m to the chaplaincy program. The woman is a snake.

  6. shockwaveplasma says

    I’ve always been pleased that PZ has really taken notice of the Chaplains problem in Australia.

    The only other non-Australian I can think of who has highlighted it has been Katherine Stewart.

    On the other hand, it’s very annoying it’s ONLY these two (outside Australia)in our so-called Skeptical movement saying “Look at this weird Australian thing going on”.

    Thanks PZ, you’re a star!

  7. Hayden says

    FYI, you seem to get seven votes, and it let me dump all seven into the one question.

  8. John Kruger says

    Still about 1100 votes shy of getting into the top three, that will actually be answered. We have Phrangulated more than that in the past!

    Although, I fear like most politicians she will just answer the questions she wants to, instead of the ones that are asked.

  9. Synfandel says

    As of 4:50 p.m. EDT, it’s up to number four—not yet into the critical top three. More votes are needed.

    The question in the number two spot, “JG, why are you prime minister?”, is just dumb. Read a civics book, folks.

  10. johnfreethinker says

    I am hoping someone can answer my challenge. It may not relate to what the original post contained, but it cuts to the bone of this blog.

    I have been recovering from a severe depression, in which I began to feel I had no hope at all. After I left the hospital, someone I trust told me part of my problem was that I did not believe we have life outside this body.

    Without hope in another and better world, it did seem that everything was bleak, especially the prospect of another depression. So I began studying about an afterlife, especially the phenomenon called the near-death experience (NDE). I read Moody, Van Lommel, Long, Atwater, and others on this subject. I researched NDE extensively on the Web.

    From the abundance of evidence, I have concluded that I will live again, in this or another world. I am not just a bunch of chemicals reacting, but a spiritual being temporarily traveling in this world. This realization is beginning to transform me into a much more peaceful, spiritual person.

    But am I now deluded in believing that consciousness goes on beyond death, and that therefore there is hope? This is my challenge: I defy you to show that there is any hope or purpose or value to life, if it all ends at death.

  11. says

    johnfreethinker I believe is not new but is an old troll, IIRC if not I appologize.

    Also I think you’re lying. If not I apologize.

    Also go to TZT for this.

    What nonsense. Just because something ends is no argument against enjoying it while it lasts. That’s like asking “Why get high if you’re going to end up sober again later?” or “Why open the beer if there’s only 12 ounces in it?” or “Why watch Firefly when there’s only 14 episodes?” All of them very silly questions.

    Not only are you very, very silly and pompous, but you’re also in the wrong thread. If you want to talk about something off-topic and also nonsensical, go here.

    If we all promise to be as miserable as you think we should be will you leave us alone?

  12. says

    From the abundance of evidence, I have concluded that I will live again, in this or another world. I am not just a bunch of chemicals reacting, but a spiritual being temporarily traveling in this world. This realization is beginning to transform me into a much more peaceful, spiritual person.

    Great! So kill yourself. I mean, it doesn’t matter if you do now that you’re sure you won’t really die right?

  13. Evader, the parasite-infested branch on the evolutionary tree says

    Julia, fuck off all religious aspects from Australia. And your NBN rollout window of 10 years is like unwanted sodomy.

  14. says

    You can just sign up with Facebook, if you’re so inclined. Which I am.

    It’s at #6 now. #2 is gay marriage, so that’s good. If ypu want to split votes, there’s also worthy asylum seeker and aboriginal intervention questions in the top 10.

  15. Josh says

    The question is currently at #3! Thanks PZ for bringing this to the attention of the wider atheist community.

  16. Charlie Foxtrot says

    And since Bolt’s call for action, the AFA question has jumped to #2 and his preferred question is still at #4. A nice little ray of sunshine there.
    If only that stupid 1st question would get shunted out now…

  17. says

    jasonball #18:

    Is seems that Andrew Bolt is now on the offensive:

    Ah, conservatives. It’s fair for them to bus in supporters/hecklers to live events but when the dastardly liberals band together on the internet it’s THE END OF DEMOCRACY AS WE KNOW IT.

    Of course, “democracy as we know it” involves a lot of condescending and tone/concern trolling to any liberal who tries to publicly contest the notion that liberals and conservatives are on any sort of equal footing, so obviously the conservatives won’t like it.

  18. Draken says

    Andrew Bolt:

    It seems the author has got US Internet forums to help. (…) Should blog readers fight fire with fire? It does seem odd having US readers demand answers from an Australian PM that they’ll almost certainly won’t hear about a program that doesn’t affect them in the slightest.

    Even if we were so cynical that we’d want to allow evangelists to prey on the next generation of world citizens, we would all still be affected by climate regulations anywhere.

    And not all of us are USians.

  19. gragra, something clever after the comma says

    It seems you can use your 7 votes multiple times for one question.