Chaplains 'support gay students'

SCRIPTURE Union has emphasised its support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex  community in the wake of concerns from an advocacy group.

Rainbow Communities vice-chairman Don Macdonald yesterday said the organisation was worried about the federal government's decision to drop the option of a secular welfare worker from the school chaplaincy program.

Rainbow Communities vice-chairman Don Macdonald

Rainbow Communities vice-chairman Don Macdonald

From January 1, the federally funded National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program will be replaced by a five-year, $245 million initiative that will only be offering religion-affiliated positions.

Mr Macdonald said Rainbow Communities recognised the good work of chaplains but believed that schools should be able to choose who they employed in support roles.

``What we would be hoping is that the opposition parties and members of the government not support that part of the budget,'' Mr Macdonald said.

``We are quite concerned about the fact the government is imposing religion on our community, because religion has not been our great friend or supporter.

``We would be asking that the legislation not be passed as it is, and that they not be allowed to cut non-religious trained welfare officers from the system so they cannot impose religion on the Australian community.''

Scripture Union Tasmania chief executive Ruth Pinkerton said Tasmanian school chaplains were specially trained in working with LGBTI students.

``We are aware of the statistics, they're a minority group that have a lot of issues and are really susceptible to suicide, so we are seeing them needing more care,'' she said.

``There is no sense of wanting to exclude these students.''

Ms Pinkerton said chaplains were not in schools to make judgments.

``They are there to support all members of the school with personal and spiritual work.''

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