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The Forum > Article Comments > Principles for an Australian policy on religion and state > Comments

Principles for an Australian policy on religion and state : Comments

By James Page, published 17/11/2011

Australians ought to have the right to bring their religion with them into public debate.

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"The professional religious educator does not assume any faith position on the part of the student, but rather seeks to inform the student about the different dimensions of religious faith."

Is this meant to include the information that none of it has any verifiable foundation in fact? Because any student capable of grasping that is soon going to ask why they are only meant to be informed about religion and not all the other equally well-supported fields such as astrology, phrenology, ESP and UFOlogy.

Religion is a historical and social phenomenon and as such can be taught in the context of history and social science. There is no more need to elevate it to the status of a special subject than there is to elevate dowsing or homeopathy to the same position.
Posted by Jon J, Thursday, 17 November 2011 6:22:08 AM
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A good thoughtful article, however we are protected in Australia by Sect. 116 of the constitution.

This section protects religion from the capricious acts of the parliament and equally the parliament and through them the people, from the capricious act of the theocracy, Surely one of the more sensible sections of our constitution stolen as it was from the US constitution by our founding fathers.
Posted by peterfra, Thursday, 17 November 2011 6:44:47 AM
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This is all very well, but a bit motherhood. The principles are too high-level to give decisive guidance on many of the more problematic or contentious issues affecting the boundary between church and state. Id like some examples of how these guidelines would help to determine:

- Should a bishop be appointed governor general?
- Should Churches campaign on political and social issues such as the treatment of asylum seekers, gay marriage and abortion?
- Should religious sensitivities be protected by anti-hate-speech and similar laws?
- Should school chaplaincies be permitted in State schools and, if so, should Government fund them?
- Can religious schools and institutions refuse to hire employees not of their religion/denomination?
- Should a political leader consult their Archbishop on matters of policy?
- Should church schools receive government funding?
- How far should people complying with what they believe to be religious requirements be accommodated when these practices do not accord with common laws and customs (Sikhs wearing turbans not crash helmets, Muslim women in burkhas, Jews refusing to work on Saturdays, Christian nurses refusing to assist abortions...)
Posted by Rhian, Thursday, 17 November 2011 2:34:30 PM
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Of course, since christians will earnestly speak of their right hold and expound their beliefs, we will of course expect them to genuinely hold to them.

When christians refuse categorically to fight in wars or to accept potentially combatant roles, we will understand them finally to have grasped at least one supposedly vital commandment.

you know, the one that got abbreviated from what moses *really* meant:

Thou shalt not kill *unless* under orders, or out of plausibly deniable responsibility dodging, or because it's ok on account of their not *my* religion.

So many bibles leave out that *unless* bit......

Rusty
Posted by Rusty Catheter, Thursday, 17 November 2011 5:50:38 PM
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"*they're* not *my* religion", of course.

Rusty.
Posted by Rusty Catheter, Thursday, 17 November 2011 6:05:02 PM
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@peterfra

Not much of a protection, considering how narrowly it has been interpreted by the High Court (see the DOGS case in the 80s). I do agree that it's intention was to prevent the kind of religious overreach that we see in Australia. Edmond Barton campaigned hard to not have God mentioned at all the preamble and Constitution. In the end he wasn't entirely successful.

What troubles me more than The Lord's Prayer at the start of parliament, is the tax breaks that religious business and organisations receive. Sanitarium is the classic Australian case. If religious charities were required to at least make their finances public, then we could be somewhat sure they weren't using money to basically become rip people off. There are numerous cases of churches being given public land via peppercorn deals for the purpose of building places of worship, and then selling the land when the land value has increased. They generally don't pay any state or federal taxes on that kind of thing, yet make use of civil services like garbage collection.
Posted by SilverInCanberra, Thursday, 17 November 2011 7:26:57 PM
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