Williams v Commonwealth: School Chaplains and the Religious Tests Clause of the Constitution
Monash University Law Review, Vol 38, No 3, pp. 271-294, 2012
25 Pages Posted: 1 May 2013 Last revised: 28 Aug 2013
Date Written: April 30, 2013
This case note examines the High Court’s recent decision in Williams v Commonwealth as it relates to the religious tests clause of s 116 of the Constitution. It was alleged that school chaplains engaged under the National School Chaplaincy Program held ofﬁces under the Commonwealth and that the rules governing their appointment constituted a religious test. This case note considers in detail the submissions made by the parties and interveners — something the High Court did not do in its judgment — and critiques the reasoning in the judgments that dealt with the s 116 issues of whether a religious test was involved and whether school chaplains held an ofﬁce under the Commonwealth. The note also offers a critique of the methodological approach taken to the interpretation of the clause by the Court. It is concluded that the High Court’s decision provides only limited and somewhat confusing guidance on the meaning of this important constitutional provision.
Keywords: religious test, religious tests clause, section 116, article VI clause 3, public trust, office or public trust under the Commonwealth, office or public trust under the United States, school chaplain
JEL Classification: K10, K30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation