Australia’s high court has upheld a legal challenge against federal government funding arrangements for the national school chaplaincy program.
Payments by the federal government to chaplain provider Scripture Union Queensland to deliver chaplaincy services in Queensland schools were unlawful, the court decided on Thursday.
It unanimously decided legislation passed by the federal parliament – intended to provide commonwealth with authority to making funding agreements and payments – was “invalid in its operation with respect to a funding agreement between the Commonwealth and Scripture Union Queensland”.
It is not yet clear whether the ruling will have broader implications for other commonwealth schemes.
The judgment is the latest instalment in the long-running battle waged by a Queensland father, Ron Williams, against commonwealth funding arrangements for the national school chaplaincy program. He is opposed to religious chaplains in secular state schools.
In 2012 Williams secured a high court ruling that payments by the federal government to chaplain provider Scripture Union Queensland pursuant to the Darling Heights Funding Agreement were beyond the executive power of the Commonwealth under section 61 of the Constitution.