The government has announced an investigation into an anti-bullying program aimed at helping LGBTI students after sustained pressure from the Australian Christian Lobby and conservative backbenchers.
The Safe Schools Coalition program, running since 2013, has been adopted by almost 500 schools across the country.
Senator Cory Bernardi, one of the most vocal opponents of the Safe Schools program, said it went beyond anti-bullying measures and forced the views of LGBTI advocates onto school students.
Schools "should be places of learning, not indoctrination", Bernardi said.
But in response to his comments, people started to point out that a similar logic could be applied to the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP).
The NSCP, which funds chaplains in state, Catholic and independent schools, was established by the Howard government in 2006.
Labor briefly expanded the program in 2011 to include funding for non-religious welfare workers as well – however, this was scrapped by Tony Abbott in 2014 after the Coalition returned to power.
Ruled invalid by the High Court in 2014, the NSCP was restructured to provide funding via states and territories instead. It now provides chaplains to approximately 2900 schools across the country.
Under the NSCP agreement, "chaplains may be from any faith, chaplains are not permitted to proselytise and they must respect, accept and be sensitive to other people’s views, values and beliefs".
Greens LGBT spokesman, Senator Robert Simms, told BuzzFeed News the chaplaincy program should be in Senator Bernardi's sights if he is concerned about propaganda.
"It's interesting that Senator Bernardi has said the Safe Schools Coalition is pushing propaganda and a particular ideological position within our schools," he said. "The only organisation doing that is the chaplains program funded by the government."
The federal government has committed $243.8 million to the chaplaincy program from 2014-2018.
In comparison, the Labor government committed $8 million of funding over four years for the Safe Schools Coalition in 2013.
Both programs are voluntary for schools to opt in if they wish.
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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