June 20, 2012
Australian Court Invalidates School Chaplains Championed By Atheist Head of State
Atheist prime minister has defended program for years; top court says it violates not religious freedom, but spending authority.
A controversial Australian government program that stocks public schools with mostly Christian chaplains has long weathered political opposition and court challenges, thanks to an ironic supporter: the island nation's atheist prime minister, Julia Gillard.
But today Australia's highest appeals court invalidated the program, finding that, while it doesn't violate church-state separation, it does exceed the government's spending authority because it lacks legislation.
However, the Australian government says it will continue to fund the chaplains, either by passing legislation or by funding it at the state level.
CT reported on Gillard's counter-intuitive defense of the chaplain program in 2010.