I happened to discover today that there is a chaplain within the House of Commons in the UK; fair enough. I don't really have a problem with someone being there to offer some sort of support to the HoC staff. Not even letting them incant some mumbo-jumbo at the start of the day.
But who pays his or her salary? Is it the Church of Englang? Or is it the government … and indirectly, the taxpayer? Which includes me.
I also don't have a problem with a single salary for a member of the clergy – one salary doesn't add up to much compared with the entirity of the public sector. But how many others are employed by the taxpayer?
- The NHS employs chaplains.
- The prison service employs chaplains.
- Universities employ chaplains.
- The military employ chaplains.
And probably other murkier corners of the public sector. Now when I say "employs", there are some areas of doubt – some are volunteers, and some may be paid for by the Church of England. But there are obviously many who are paid by the taxpayer.
Now I don't want hospital patients, prisoners, University students and staff, nor anyone in the military being derived of chaplains. If some people think they provide a useful service, then I have no objections to them using such services.
But why is my money being used to pay for their services? I would much rather my money was used to pay for properly trained counsellors which would provide appropriate services to all members of the public without being ever so slightly creepy (by talking about the mythical sky-daddy … or indeed the "wrong" mythical sky-daddy). If someone wants to speak to a religious consultant, then a counsellor can find a volunteer to meet that request.