School chaplains banned from unwedded sexual relationships

school chaplains
Image: Schools Ministry Group Facebook

A former South Australian school chaplain has told the Guardian that Australia’s second-largest schools chaplaincy provider insists school chaplains must be married or live on their own.

Qualified counsellor Caragh Larsen previously worked as a chaplain for Schools Ministry Group at two Adelaide public primary schools. The federal government pays over $60m annually to the religious groups that provide school chaplains around the country. State governments also contribute to the programs in their states.

The Schools Ministry Group code of conduct defines unacceptable behaviour to include ‘cohabitation’.

“It is unacceptable for a pastoral care worker to initiate or become involved in relationships of a sexual or inappropriate nature with any person to whom they are not married.”

The code specifies relationships that include ‘cohabitation’  or behaviour considered ‘sexually intrusive by another person’.

Caragh Larsen told the Guardian the code condemned unmarried school chaplains to “living on our own.”

School chaplains proselytising

The National School Chaplaincy Program explicitly forbids school chaplains from both proselytising and providing religious instruction.

However, Caragh Larsen said one chaplain received praise at a meeting she attended for getting children to attend his church’s youth group.

She also said that a Schools Ministry Group manager described a student throwing things in class as a ‘demonic response’ to the ‘presence of God’.

Schools Ministry Group

Schools Ministry Group responded to the claims in a Facebook post earlier today.

“All [Pastoral Care Workers] must adhere to our statement of faith and support our values. This is no different to many other organisations and companies. That said, PCWs meet the needs of all students irrespective of their background, faith belief or gender.

“Along with the Department for Education, we will, of course, investigate this claim. However, we believe there is likely no substance to it. We can confirm that there has never been a complaint about a PCW proselytising in SA.”

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