In December 2010, CT explored the interesting news that Australia's atheist prime minister was defending a controversial federal program that paid for Christian chaplains to work in public schools. Now the Australian government is allowing schools to hire secular welfare workers instead of chaplains with program funds if they so chose.
In 2007, the government began offering schools up to $20,000 annually to provide chaplaincy services to students; secular workers could only be hired if the school could prove no chaplains were available. But a program review last year indicated "strong feedback" to open up the program to qualified secular workers. Today 208 of the 2,512 schools that reapplied for the program plan to hire a secular worker; 68 schools remain undecided, and the vast majority will continue hiring chaplains.
CT reported that newly-elected Prime Minister Julia Gillard, an atheist, promised to extend the program through 2014, calling the program a success. The program is voluntary; ...1