Johnny H. as Charley Chaplain
Shake off Hilali, PM urges Muslims (And while you're at it, ditch Jensen)
Arguing that as Prime Minister it was not his role to appoint imams any more than it was to appoint cardinals or archbishops, Mr Howard said "the responsibility to resolve this matter sensibly rests with the Islamic community". If the matter was not "properly handled" by the Islamic community, he was concerned "that their failure to do so will do lasting damage to perceptions of that community within the Australian community".
Meanwhile, he is continuing to insinuate the church's teachings into the local school curriculum.
THOUSANDS of religious counsellors will be appointed to schools that join a new $90 million federal program to fill a significant "spiritual and pastoral" gap in services to Australian students.
But while church leaders welcomed the program, announced by John Howard yesterday, teachers' groups attacked it as part of the Prime Minister's "fundamentalist approach to education and values.
They rejected the need for counsellors to have a religious affiliation and questioned where suitable candidates would be found. Mr Howard emphasised that the three-year scheme, due to begin next year, would be voluntary and that it would be up to the whole school community to select their counsellor, who would then be vetted by the Government.
Jewish or Muslim schools, for example, could choose a chaplain from their own faith.
"It will, I believe, fill a very significant gap in the services available to school students," Mr Howard said.
"And my assessment of the Australian community is that, whatever its view about formal religious adherence may be, it does hunger for additional ways of looking at the spiritual and pastoral side of life."
Uniting Church in Australia president Gregor Henderson said where there had been experience of school chaplains, students, parents and teachers had been positive. "It is a good initiative for the young people of Australia," Reverend Henderson said.
But Australian Secondary Principals Association president Andrew Blair said his members would have "favoured a much more open funding arrangement on a per capita basis for every school in the country, to allow them to engage the right kind of support that they might need, whether it be a social worker, a psychologist or a chaplain".
Mr Blair condemned tying such support to a religious base.
"This kind of new fundamentalist zeal that seems to be coming out of Canberra is frankly out of step with what the education community really needs."