Media releases

Press releases issued by the Secular Party of Australia

Latest media releases

19 May  2014
Changes to the Racial Discrimination Act

On 25 March 2014 Attorney-General George Brandis QC released an exposure draft of changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. The stated motivation was to enhance protection for freedom of speech, but the changes are broadly regarded as being a response to the Andrew Bolt litigation. The Secular Party of Australia is a strong supporter of free speech, and agrees with some aspects of the proposed legislation, but finds it unacceptable that it allows exemptions for anyone contributing to “political, social, cultural, religious, academic or scientific” pursuits. These exemptions are so broad that they effectively emasculate the Racial Discrimination Act.

The Secular Party proposes two modifications to the draft legislation. Firstly, the criteria specifying what is illegal should be strengthened by including the concept of intent. Specifically, it is unlawful to do an act that is intended and reasonably likely to vilify or intimidate another person or group of persons. Secondly, with this extra requirement for determining what is illegal, the clause giving exemptions for specific activities should be removed. In essence society expects that political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific pursuits lack the intent to vilify or intimidate, and if this were not the case they should be subject to prosecution under the Racial Discrimination Act.

The concept of intent is well established in law, and is routinely used by courts to assess culpability for offences. The inclusion of intent also protects minors or people with diminished responsibility. Such individuals may not be aware of the potential for their words or actions to vilify or intimidate, and should not be held accountable for them.
Colin Coleman

30 August 2013
War crimes in Syria

Responding to a breach of international law by perpetrating another illegal act is not an appropriate way to deal with Syria’s use of chemical weapons, according to John Perkins, Secular Party president.

“Are the lessons of history never learnt?” asked Dr Perkins. “The Secular Party supports the use of international legal institutions. The United Nations Security Council is the only body that can legally authorise action against Syria.”

Dr Perkins expressed disgust at the slaughter of unarmed civilians, and emphasised that it should be treated as the war crime that it undoubtedly is.

“Crimes against humanity should be dealt with by legal means in the International Criminal Court,” he said, “not with violent punitive attacks.”
Dr Perkins added that Australia should use its position as head of the United Nations Security Council to insist that a legal route be taken in dealing with the grave situation in Syria.

“This is particularly important in a world increasingly wracked by sectarian religious violence,” he said. “The international community should set higher standards. Ex-judicial actions and targeted assassinations are a backward step, and will not serve to diminish certain cultural propensities for religious violence.”

Dr Perkins suggested that rather than withdrawing an issue from a vote in the Security Council due to an anticipated veto, votes should proceed so that member countries’ positions are placed on the public record. “This may help the role of the veto to be exposed as an often unjustified impediment to effective action on urgent world issues,” he said.

Dr Perkins concluded by stating that the Secular Party stands for the promotion of universal standards of justice.

27 August 2013
Secular Party avoid preference deals

The Secular Party of Australia has based its preferences entirely on secular principles, according to Secular Party president John Perkins.

“Despite the temptation to receive flow-on support from other parties, we have refused any deals for preferences at the upcoming federal election,” said Dr Perkins. “We do not compromise our major principles to negotiate deals with other parties.”

Dr Perkins explained that these principles include a change to the definition of charity and opposition to the promotion of religion in public schools. “The Australian Taxation Office does not require a religious organisation to provide any public benefit to be eligible for significant exemptions,” he said. “Merely the ‘advancement of religion’ is sufficient for an organisation to obtain exempt status.”

Dr Perkins, an economist, said that total funding for religious institutions amounts to over $2000 per taxpayer per year. He added that the amount of money spent on advancing religion means that “Australia is no longer a secular country.”

In terms of the major parties, Dr Perkins advised that the Secular Party will favour the Greens, Labor and then Liberal, with religious parties last.

The Secular Party is fielding nineteen candidates across all states and in the ACT.

26 August 2013
Funding for religion costing taxpayers.

Funding for religion in Australia is costing taxpayers over 2000 dollars each per year according to figures released today by the Secular Party of Australia.
The party has calculated that total funding for religious institutions including tax exemptions and grants for religious schools is currently worth 31 billion dollars.

According to Royston Wilding, Secular candidate for Melbourne,  the average taxpayer is therefore contributing over 2000 dollars per year to their local church, mosque or synagogue whether they are a believer or not.

“Many Melbournians are concerned that both parties will continue to support religious organisations at the expense of the taxpayer” Mr Wilding said.  According to the 2011 census, 41% of Melbournians identify as non-believers.

“Voting number one for us in the Melbourne electorate will send an unambiguous message to Canberra that funding religion at the expense of the tax payer is unacceptable Mr Wilding said.

The Secular Party is fielding candidates in select House of Representatives seats, as well as the Senate in most states.

6 August 2013
School chaplains and trivia nights

Schools should not be holding trivia nights to raise funds for school chaplains, according to Secular Party spokesperson, Greg Plier. “A public and supposedly secular school has decided that the best way to care for their students is to employ religious chaplains,” said Mr Plier. “Frankston High School has just held a trivia night to raise money. Why not do that to better resource their Student Wellbeing Team with properly qualified counsellors or welfare officers?” See more . . .

Previous media releases

 

Secular Party Condemns Budget Decision on Chaplains

12 May 2011

The Secular Party condemns the announcement in this week’s Federal Budget to allocate a further $222 million of taxpayer’s funds to school chaplains. It has allocated this money while cutting funding to the Digital Education Revolution (DER) by $132.5 million.

It is the policy of the Secular Party to replace the National School Chaplaincy Program, set up by the Howard government, with funding for qualified school counsellors.

Gillard had previously undertaken to replace chaplains with qualified psychologists and counsellors. This is yet another backdown by the Labor government.

Our kids don’t need chaplains, they need properly qualified counsellors. Chaplains are necessarily denominational, generally Christian and are unsuited for a modern Australia with religious minorities and kids who aren’t religious.

There are many problems with the Chaplains in Schools Program. Firstly, it violates the principle of “separation of church and state”. The state should not be in the business of “advancing religion”. Secondly, it is biased in favour of one religion: Christianity. The overwhelming majority of chaplains, if not all, are Christian. A third problem is that schools are crying out for qualified counsellors.

Meanwhile the NSW government has reluctantly allowed ethics teaching for public school children who opt out of Special Religious Instruction taught by volunteers. The Secular Party proposes that chaplains funding be used to provide qualified counsellors and to assist state governments to fund paid ethics classes in the curriculum.

Religions should not be promoted in schools

5 April 2011

When government-funded education was founded in Australia in the 19th century, it was established on the basis that education should be “universal, secular and free”. In spite of the Australian Constitution, it seems we have abandoned all these principles.

“The internationally recognised right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion does not provide for the religious indoctrination of children in schools”, said Secular Party spokesperson John Perkins. “On the contrary, religious indoctrination suppresses children’s right to freedom of thought”, he said.

A recent report by the Australian Human Rights Commission found that there was a critical need for education about religion, rather than instruction in religion.  The report acknowledged that religions are divisive. “How can Australia’s system of government-funded, religiously segregated schools possibly promote social harmony?”, Dr Perkins asks.

Human knowledge has increased to a vast extent since religious schools were established in Australia. It is high time that the whole system of government-funded religion in schools was reassessed. In its submission to the government’s Review of Funding for Schooling: Emerging Issues Paper, the Secular Party stated: “To receive funding, schools should not endorse, assist, or promote the advancement of particular religions.”

Reason and rationality, combined with universal principles such as compassion, honesty, freedom and justice, provide an ethical framework that is equal to, if not better than, that provided by any religion.

View the subission to the schools funding inquiry

Paying for Natural Disasters

14 February 2011 – Secular Party Calls for Reconstruction Efforts be Funded by Abolishing Tax Breaks and Grants to Religions

The Secular Party is opposed to the introduction of a Flood Levy and the scrapping of worthwhile renewable energy projects and anti-terrorism foreign aid projects to fund natural disaster recovery efforts.

These costs could be funded from rolling back many of the generous taxation exemptions given to religions in Australia that could be as high as $29.4 billion per annum.Australia faces significant costs following a series of natural disasters including floods and a cyclone in Queensland.

The Federal Government proposes to fund this by imposing a Flood Levy and axing renewable energy projects. The Coalition meanwhile proposes to axe programs including the funding of anti-extremist measures in Indonesia.

We call on the Government and Opposition to consider funding reconstruction by rolling back unwarranted public subsidies and tax breaks to Australia’s wealthiest religions.

Many of these religious organisations operate businesses such as mortgage-broking that are exempt from company tax, stamp duty and council rates that other businesses and individuals are required to pay.

It is estimated that tax exemptions and direct subsidies to the religious sector could total as much as $29.4 billion every year.

This amount could pay for the Queensland floods and cyclone many times over.

The Secular Party stands for a true secular society in Australia, free of religious influence in matters of public policy.

Secular Party Supports “No Religion” Campaign for 2011 Census

21 January 2011 – Secular Party Believes Census Religion Question is Misleading

The Secular Party of Australia has for years lobbied the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to change the wording and positioning of the religion question in the Census to better capture the true extent of religious belief in Australia.

Now the same flawed question will be used in the 2011 Census.

We urge all Australians to think carefully about how they respond to the religion question in the 2011 Census to ensure we gain an accurate picture of religious belief and practice in Australia.

Because of the way the question is framed many people select the religion of their baptism, family or cultural background, despite not being a religious person at all.

Past results may have been inflated by the fact that the question appeared after a series of questions on ethnicity, which may well have encouraged people to respond more on the basis of culture than actual beliefs.

In the 2006 Census 19% responded “No Religion” and a further 12% did not answer. Other polls and surveys since then suggest that a lack of religious belief could be 50% or higher. This is also supported by the decline in religious attendance and the fact that a majority of marriages have civil celebrants.

Australia is therefore a much more secular than the Census represents.

Apart from the inaccuracy of the data collected on religious affiliation, there are real, practical problems with the use of such data. The Census data on religion says nothing about Australians’ actual religious practice or beliefs.

However, government agencies use such data in resource allocation. Religious organisations rely on flawed figures to justify their costly and unfair exemptions from taxes and discrimination laws.

Organisations in Australia and around the world are campaigning for the same at Census time. Most outstanding is the British Humanist Association’s campaign titled “If you’re not religious, for God’s sake say so!”

We actively encourage all Australians who do not have religious beliefs to answer the question more carefully this Census.

So if you are not religious, then select “NO RELIGION”.

The Secular Party stands for a true secular society in Australia.

UN Blasphemy Law

6 December 2010 – Secular Party Opposes UN Resolution against Defamation of Religion

The Secular Party expresses concern that the United Nations General Assembly may shortly approve a non-binding resolution against the “defamation of religion”.

The sponsors of this resolution are the 56-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference. This organisation has stated that its ultimate aim is an international blasphemy law that will make it a criminal offence to disparage Islam.

The resolution is designed to bolster discriminatory laws in Muslim countries that are often used against followers of other religions and non-believers. These laws are regularly used to torture and murder people in the name of Islam.

Further this resolution under the guise of combating “Islamophobia” is designed to stifle debate in non-Muslim countries.

The Secular Party of Australia believes this non-binding resolution contradicts the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and will be used to legitimise blasphemy and apostasy laws (which make it a capital offence to convert from Islam) in the countries that have them.

Australia has a rich history of open and free expression and debate.  This freedom is under threat from religious extremists and must be vigorously defended.

We call on the Parliament of Australia and the Foreign Minister to condemn and vote against this resolution.

Same-Sex Marriage

25 November 2010 – Secular Party Strongly Supports Marriage Equality

The Secular Party of Australia strongly supports the move towards ending discrimination on the basis of sexual preference.

We believe that Australia is at risk of being left behind as a progressive and equitable society while increasing numbers of countries are legalising same-sex marriage.

We applaud the many significant changes to same-sex discrimination implemented by the Rudd Government following the recommendations of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. It is time the last remaining recommendations be implemented.

The opposition to same sex marriage is significantly related to out-dated religious doctrines.

Most Australians, including many of faith, support the ending of discrimination. Sadly many of their elected representatives from both sides of politics are unduly influenced by their own religious beliefs or the vocal, well-funded, minority interests of certain religions.

The Marriage Act, amended by the Howard Government for the sole purpose of denying same-sex couples the same rights as all other Australians, should be changed as soon as possible.

The Secular Party stands for a true secular society in Australia, free of religious influence in matters of public policy.

Secular Party Supports Ethics Classes in NSW Schools

25 November 2010 – Secular Party Strongly Supports Ethics in Schools

The Secular Party of Australia strongly supports the decision of the NSW Government to provide Ethics Classes as an alternative to Religious Education in state public schools.

We believe this measure is long overdue and a welcome step in the right direction.

We urge the NSW Government to work towards incorporating ethics teaching as a core part of the curriculum for all schools in NSW, including faith-based schools.

We believe that Ethics Classes should ultimately be taught by qualified teaching staff rather than volunteers as is proposed.

Religion has no place in public classrooms unless studied as comparative religion.

Parents wanting to provide their children with ethical secular educations should be able to choose public schools without concerns of religious influence.

Most Australians reasonably expect public schools to provide a religion-free alternative education to children.

The Secular Party is deeply disappointed to hear that the NSW Liberal Opposition have this week stated that they intend to cancel Ethics Classes should they win office in the upcoming NSW State Election in 2011.  We believe this is an example of the undue influence of religion in Australian politics and continues the pattern of politicians who do not represent their constituents.

The Secular Party stands for a true secular society  in Australia.

Secular Party Strongly Supports Burqa Mural Artist

27th October 2010

(Open letter to Marrickville Council Mayor and Deputy Mayor)

We refer to the recent events surrounding the burqa mural in Newtown and the Council’s response.

The Secular Party urges Council to stop the harassment of Sergio Redegalli and to respect his legal rights.

The use of the burqa image is provocative and disturbing to many people, and for many different reasons. Whether it was the appropriate symbol to use to make the point is also debatable, but no one was hurt and no one’s freedoms were impinged.

The mural is also legal and the Council has admitted as much in public. Yet it has endeavored to have the mural removed and condemned for reasons that it has failed to adequately express.

The core issue here is freedom of expression; a freedom Sergio Redegalli has denied to no one else, and which he asks continue to be cherished, and protected.

The burqa mural provides an opportunity to have a robust and intelligent debate about a myriad of issues such as what designates a secular space, the burqa as a symbol of female repression and the radical form of Islam that seeks to undermine the very secular democratic freedoms that we all enjoy.

The burqa mural raises more questions than it answers. In a world of political correctness and sanitized and populist political debate it is refreshing to see an individual take a stand in the face of criticism and the predictable threats from radical parts of Sydney’s Muslim community.

It was deeply disappointing to learn that a progressive Council seeks to silence a citizen and artist from expressing his views.

The Secular Party is not afraid to defend Australia’s basic freedoms. It stands for a true secular society that respects all beliefs and non-beliefs as long as they do not interfere with the freedoms, rights and liberties of others. The Secular Party rejects the Council’s negative and confrontational approach to Sergio Redegalli’s mural.

Governments should not promote religion

14 August 2010 – Governments should not promote religion

What is the appropriate role of government in relation to religion in Australia?

Section 116 of our Constitution says that “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion”.

Over recent decades, the intentions of our founding forbears have been betrayed. “Now, any sect, cult or religion can receive government funding to promote their beliefs” says Ian Bryce, Secular Party candidate for the Senate in NSW. “This is unjust, inappropriate, and will undermine the future harmony of Australian society”, he says.

The Secular Party stands for upholding and restoring the intention of the Australian Constitution. In past times of religious conflict, the importance of secular principles was well recognised. Now, as new forms of religious conflict threaten peace and harmony, both locally and globally, the importance of secularism must again be recognised.

It is the policy of the Secular Party that faith schools should not receive government funding. To be eligible for school fee tax rebates, non-government government schools should not be biased in favour of any particular religion. They should either teach comparative religion, or teach their faith programmes outside school hours in non-compulsory sessions.

The Secular Party strongly supports the continuation and expansion of the ethics classes in NSW schools. In the long term they would like to see universal principles such as freedom, compassion, justice, and honesty replace the narrow minded and selfish doctrines of religions.

Ian Bryce was speaking at a campaign meeting in Sydney.

For details contact Ian on 0408 177007

Secular Party Condemns Gillard on Chaplains

09 August 2010 – Secular Party condemns Gillard on Chaplains

The Secular Party condemns the announcement by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to increase funding to school chaplains by $222 million. It is the policy of the Secular Party to replace the National School Chaplaincy Program, set up by the Howard government, with funding for qualified school counsellors.

Gillard had previously undertaken to replace chaplains with qualified psychologists and counsellors. This is yet another backdown by the Labor government.

Our kids don’t need chaplains, they need properly qualified counsellors. Chaplains are necessarily denominational, generally Christian and are unsuited for a modern Australia with religious minorities and kids who aren’t religious. It also violates the principle of separation of church and state and is biassed in favour of one religion: Christianity. The state should not be the business of “advancing religion”.

There are many problems with the Chaplains in Schools Program. Firstly, it violates the principle of “separation of church and state”. The state should not be in the business of “advancing religion”. Secondly, it is biased in favour of one religion: Christianity. The overwhelming majority of chaplains, if not all, are Christian. Should students not have Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist and other chaplains too? A third problem is that schools are crying out for qualified counsellors.

Voters may have had some hope that our atheist Prime Minister may have been able to stand up to the religious lobby. These hopes are now dashed.

It was to counter the effects of the religious lobby that the Secular Party has been set up. We are fielding thirty-one candidates across Australia in the federal election. Only the Secular Party stands in the way of the growing influence of religion in Australian politics. Rather than fostering sectarianism, Australia needs politics based on the universal values of compassion, freedom, honesty and justice.

John L Perkins
President. Tel 0411 143744

Secular Party supports marriage equality

8 August  2010 – Secular Party Strongly Supports Immediate Marriage Equality for Same Sex Couples

Marriage in Australian law is a secular and civil institution and, like all secular and civil institutions, must be governed by the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

For this reason the Secular Party of Australia strongly supports amendments to the Marriage Act allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Furthermore, the Secular Party of Australia opposes attempts to legally recognise same-sex relationships that fall short of marriage equality. While we support alternative schemes for the recognition of partners who do not wish to marry, we do not support these alternative schemes as a substitute for allowing same-sex couples to marry. There is no substitute for the right to marry one’s partner. In the absence of marriage equality, the enactment of a national scheme for the recognition of same-sex and other relationships would

a)    reinforce the separate, second-class status of same-sex relationships,
b)    reinforce the myth that marriage is a religious institution that same-sex couples should not be a part of, and
c)    delay the achievement of full marriage equality for many years. This has already been the case in the UK and New Zealand.             Australia must not make the same mistake.

Therefore the Secular Party of Australia makes the following commitment to Australia’s GLBTI community and all those Australians who support full legal equality: we do not support a national scheme for the formal recognition of personal relationships, such as civil unions, civil partnerships or registered relationships, before same-sex couples are allowed to marry.

A move by any political party to institute such alternative methods of relationship recognition prior to the establishment of full marriage equality represents a betrayal to those same-sex couples that deserve the ability to formalise their relationship with marriage.

We will seriously consider supporting such schemes when or after marriage equality is achieved, and at a state and territory level. But marriage equality must be the highest priority for all those who support an egalitarian, inclusive and secular Australia.

Secular Party endorses Ayaan Hirsi Ali

28 July 2010 – Secular Party endorses Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The Secular Party supports immigration from all countries, provided migrants and refugees respect Australian values. Notable author and ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali says that all human beings are equal, but all cultures and religions are not, and that Australia is entitled to select immigrant refugees on the basis on their compatibility with Australian values and society. The Secular Party endorses this view.

All migrants to Australia are already required to agree to respect Australian values. This is a condition migrants sign up to as part of their migrant visa application. The Australian Values Statement, which is part of the application form, includes such values as respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual, freedom of religion, commitment to the rule of law, Parliamentary democracy and the equality of men and women.

It is clear, however, that many immigrants who adhere to extreme religious beliefs do not respect these values. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali attests, many Islamic practices systematically abuse human rights. Muslim immigrants who adhere to these practices therefore violate the very values they have agreed to respect.

The Secular Party endorses the distinction, made by Hirsi Ali, between spiritual Islam and political Islam. Islamic practices which implement Sharia law are political. It should be made clear to Muslims that the rule of law means Australian law, not Islamic law. In Islamic law it is forbidden to leave Islam. This is a violation of freedom of religion. In Islamic law women are not equal to men. The practice of this Islamic doctrine violates respect for equality between men and women. It is clear from many Islamic practices observed in Australia, that the equality of men and women is not respected.

The Secular Party believes that it should be made clear to all immigrants and refugees who wish to settle in Australia, that Australia expects and requires that the undertakings made by migrants in their signed application forms be respected. A grant of permanent residence in Australia should be conditional on adherence to respect for Australian values.

The Secular Party believes that blind adherence to extreme religious doctrine is divisive, undesirable and potentially harmful. Future peace, harmony and social cohesion can only be achieved through respect for universal values, based on the principles of compassion, honesty, freedom and justice.

Children have freedom to choose religion

07 July 2010 – Children have religious freedom of choice

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. This right applies to children as well as adults. It includes the right to be free from coercion in matters of religion.

In the matter of Macri vs Macri in the Federal Magistrates Court in Melbourne, on 6 July, Magistrate Terry McGuire upheld the right of children to choose their religion. How is this right consistent with aspects of an education system that support the indoctrination of children, the entire purpose of which is to deny children the right to freedom of choice of religion?

In Australia, any sect, cult or religion can obtain government funding for their schools, in which they are able to instil in children that their beliefs are the one true faith. Apart from denying children’s right to religious freedom of choice and suppressing critical thinking, this also instils divisive ideologies in the minds of future citizens.

“The Secular Party looks forward to the day this freedom is extended to all children, not just those with warring parents”, said Secular Party president, John Perkins.

What is needed in Australia is a real education revolution that would overhaul the entire system of funding for faith schools. For a harmonious future we need to cultivate reason and evidence-based beliefs, and ethics based on the universal principles of compassion, honesty, freedom and justice.

Public benefit test

16 June 2010 – Inquiry into Tax Laws Amendment (Public Benefit Test)

Secular Party Submission to Senate Inquiry

The Economics Legislation Committee of the Senate invited the Secular Party to make a submission. A new bill proposed the introduction of a requirement that religious and charitable organisations meet a public benefit test to qualify for tax exempt status. The Secular Party has made a submission in support of this bill. Read the submission.

Bring back Michael Backman

8 May 2009

Is Michael Backman the first journalist in Australia to be sacked for criticising Israel? In support of Michael Backman, the Secular Party held a protest outside the offices of The Age on May 8, 2009.

In January 2009, Michael Backman had the temerity to suggest that Israel’s actions over the last sixty years have helped inflame global Islamism. There was never any reason to suppose that this highly plausible proposition was anti-Semitic. Likewise, Israelis themselves should not be immune from criticism, just because they are Israelis.

The Press Council has dismissed the case against Michael Backman. The Age should have reinstated his column immediately and apologised to Backman. This has not been done. The Age’s treatment of Michael Backman is a gross injustice and a denial of free speech.

Rather than stifling criticism of Israel, we should all be open to alternative views. Otherwise we are in danger of losing our basic rights to freedom of speech for fear of offending religious and cultural sensitivities.

It is often suggested that the Israel-Palestine conflict has nothing to do with religion. This is nonsense. All religious believers have the delusion that they are their god’s chosen people and that this gives them rights and privileges at the expense of others. The false presumption of a right to land is at the core of this dispute. Israel is a state that systematically denies equal rights to non-Jewish citizens.

Instead of Jewish, Christian or Islamic states, we should aspire to a secular states in which all citizens have equal rights. Ideally, religion is something that should be conducted in private between consenting adults. As ever, ethical values are best determined based on the universal principles of freedom, justice, honesty and compassion.

Popemobile protester charges overturned

27 April 2009

In a victory for free speech and the freedom to criticise religious crimes, the NSW Police were today forced to withdraw their charges against the builder of the fake Popemobile. Mr Ian Bryce said the police campaign against him seemed to have more to do with suppressing criticism of religion than with road safety.

A team from the Secular Party of Australia, of which Mr Bryce is Vice President, built the Popemobile, then on top of a car, as protest against the visit of the real Pope for World Youth Day in July 2008. It drove around Sydney in one form or another for 7 days, to the acclamation of 90% of people who saw it. Only a few appeared offended.

Most police who saw it then gave a friendly wave, but one Highway Patrol man seemed determined to end the protest. After trying several offences he defected the vehicle, putting it off the road, and issued a fine for “having a roof ornament likely to distract motorists”. There being no such rule, it was suspected that religious motivation played a part.

Lawyers from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties attempted to get police to specify the charge. It was only on entry to court today [27 April 2009], after 9 months, that they provided their Statement, and changed the charge to Clause 21, which states that no vehicle shall “cause danger or unreasonable annoyance to any person”. The Statement also refers to the bumper sticker saying “Sponsor a Lion for World Youth Day – 300,000 Christians in one stadium”, and the sign saying “Eat my dust Chaser”.

The basis for the annoyance was stated – the signage on the vehicle, which included the revelation that the current Pope was for 25 years the Prefect (ie Head) of the former Office of the Inquisition (now called Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). He has said “The Inquisition represented progress…”. The Police statement also complains that the sign also showed a replica of a medieval torture instrument, ie a rack – similar to those used by the Church to encourage witnesses to assist them in their enquiries, during the Inquisition covering much of Europe, over many centuries.

The Police Statement argues that this was “annoying” to the thousands of pilgrims conducting a “Stations of the Cross march” to North Sydney Oval where Mr Bryce was apprehended. Mr Bryce was ready to argue that the Church causes greater “annoyance” to the millions of children in Africa who have inherited AIDS due to the Churches ban on condoms, and who are starving because of overpopulation due to the Pope’s opposition to family planning.

With this change from a safety issue to a free speech issue, a regrouping was called for. Fortunately it was the same NSW CCL who in July overturned the World Youth Day Regulation making it an offence to “annoy or inconvenience” a pilgrim. After lengthy discussions outside the courtroom, the Police Prosecutor decided to withdraw the charges.

The Popemobile has also appeared in the Mardi Gras Parade with the slogan “Equal Rights for All”. It then contained a live Pope , trying to contact his “invisible friend” with a gold telephone, and quoted Benedict “Homosexuality is as much a threat to humankind as climate change”.

Mr Bryce said that while he was disappointed the police were able to severely curtail the Protest Popemobile during WYD, in the end it was a significant victory for civil liberties and the right to criticise crimes veiled as religion.

Review of Australia’s future tax system

Secular Party Submission

13 Oct 2008

The Secular Party accepts that some of the activities of religious organisations may be charitable, however we object to “the advancement of religion”, as such, in the definition of charitable purpose. Its inclusion is unduly broad, inequitable, anachronistic (dating from medieval times), and gives rise to several glaring anomalies.

In our submission we provide detailed estimates of the revenue and assets of churches and of the cost to taxpayers of the tax concessions and subsidies that are afforded to religious organizations. We submit that the current Review provides an opportunity for a modern approach to the definition of charitable purpose to be implemented.

Read the full Secular Party submission

Catholics and the Victorian abortion Bill

06 October 2008

Freedom of religion, thought and conscience is a declared human right. It is cited in the Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities. It does not specify that believers have a right to impose their beliefs on others.

If Catholics have a religious belief that compels them to oppose abortion, then it is their right to hold that belief. Others are entitled to hold beliefs that do not compel them to oppose abortion in all circumstances.

If a prospective patient seeks an abortion then it is apparent that that patient does not have a belief that accords with Catholic doctrine. Yet the Catholic Health Australia wants to impose their beliefs on such patients by refusing to counsel them on the options available. It is quite right that the proposed abortion Bill seeks to prevent the Catholic hierarchy from imposing their doctrines on patients in this way.

The objections of the Church raise a deeper question. In a secular society it is anomalous that religions should be in charge of running what are effectively public hospitals. If the Catholic hospitals refuse to respect the human rights of patients, then the State should take over the running of these hospitals.

Hillsong Church has no place in public schools

09 September 2008

The Secular Party of Australia has expressed serious concerns with reports that an extremist religious cult, The Hillsong Church, is using public schools as recruiting grounds and probably violating the Public Schools Act. The NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens Association has reported that about 30 public schools in NSW are allowing the Hillsong Church to conduct barbecues promoting their religious beliefs during school hours.

“Schools should be a place for objective learning and free thinking,” said party spokesperson Jeremy O’Wheel. “It’s bad enough that public schools are allowed an hour a week of religious teachings without more time being given to religious fundamentalism. Schools should be about education, not indoctrination. 30% of Australians have no religious beliefs. If those people don’t want their children to be preached at, where can they send their children to school?”

Inquiry into the Disclosure regimes for charities and not-for-profit organisations

Secular Party Submission

28 Aug 2008

In the current disclosure regime, there is little distinction between charities and religious non-charities. This lack of distinction affects both the current regulatory regime and the tax regime.

The regulatory shortcomings historically arise principally as a result of the continuation of an archaic feature of Australia’s tax regime. The origins of this lie in the Preamble to Statute of Elizabeth, or the Statute of Charitable Uses (1601), following which all religious activities came to be deemed as charitable.

As a result in Australia today, all the operations of religious organisations are deemed charitable and are thus unregulated and tax exempt. Due to the persistence of this medieval doctrine, Australia is one of only three countries in the world where these exemptions extend even to the commercial operations of religious organisations.

We submit that a rational reform of the disclosure regime for charities, is necessary to improve transparency and accountability in this sector. It is also an essential first step in addressing the anomalous situation whereby tax exemptions are extended to religious organisations for activities that are not bona fide charitable activities.

Read the full Secular Party submission

Catholic World Youth Day response

July 2008

Catholic World Youth Day is state sponsored pilgrimage

2 April 2008

The NSW government is flouting Freedom of Information laws to conceal the bankrolling of Catholic World Youth Day, President of the Secular Party of Australia, John Perkins said.

It has been reported that constituents have sought details on funding via the FOI act. Fees were paid to retrieve this information, but when received, all the relevant figures had been deleted. Citizens have a right to know how their taxes are spent. To withhold this information is contemptuous behaviour from a government supposed to be acting on behalf of their constituents.

Reports of a leaked briefing to priests allege the cost of the day has now blown out to $150 million. Federal grants are funding 20 to 24 per cent of this figure. In addition to this is $41 million compensation for the use of Randwick racecourse and $20 million for services such as policing, security and sleeping accommodation at public schools. Some estimates calculate the real cost to be in excess of $200 million even before consideration of the carbon footprint.

We are told our Australian governments are secular. 25.8% of Australians are Catholic. This is nothing but state-sponsored religion for just a quarter of the population.

Public education, the health system and other exemplary components of our community routinely beg for funding which is often refused. This outrageous waste of public funds to support a Catholic World Youth Day pilgrimage cannot be justified.

Campaign Launch Media Release – New political party challenges religion

7 November 2007

A new political party has been started to voice concerns about the role of religion in modern society.

Since the events of Sept 11, 2001, and the “war on terror”, Party President, John Perkins, says: “Many people who are not allied with any particular religion have become worried that ancient religious conflicts are now being conducted using the weapons of modern technology. The world seems to have forgotten that secularism was invented a couple of centuries ago to solve just this kind of problem”.

The Secular Party says that secularism is a humanist political philosophy based on reason, rationality, impartiality and peace between religions. To promote this vision, the Party has policies that seek to separate religion from state institutions and to protect human rights, especially those of children, from the adverse influence of frightening and divisive religious doctrines.

We are becoming less religious, but the influence of religion is increasing. As well as political statements by religious leaders such as Archbishop Pell, and presentations to church groups by both Mr Howard and Mr Rudd, there are now new religious political parties and groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby.

“It is time for a debate about religion in politics. The Secular Party Australia has been established to voice this need. We offer a positive alternative, based on the secular humanist ethical values of compassion, honesty, freedom and justice” Dr Perkins says.

The Secular Party of Australia launched its 2007 election campaign on Friday 9 November, 5pm at Drummoyne RSL, 162 Victoria Rd, Drummoyne 2047.

Dr Philip Nitschke and the Secular Party join forces

6 November 2007

In a joint statement, Mr. John August, NSW Secretary of the Secular Party of Australia, and Dr. Philip Nitschke announced a joint promotion agreement.

The Secular Party is a new arrival in Australian Politics. We are fielding Senate candidates in six states, challenging the religious influence on politics in Australia, and championing individual freedom against increasing religious influence.

Dr. Philip Nitschke is a director of Exit International, a group spearheading Voluntary Euthanasia in Australia, running a continuing program to inform people of their options at the end of their lives. Dr. Nitschke is contesting the Victorian seat of Menzies in the lower house.

There is a great deal of overlap in our policy aims; the Secular Party sees the rejection of Voluntary Euthanasia laws by Australian Parliament as a narrowly based intervention made for religious reasons rather than an endorsement of people’s freedom and autonomy.

Exit International deals at the coalface with Australia’s strange and draconian laws regarding censorship, personal autonomy , and the carriage of internet traffic. Australia is in no way a totalitarian state – but given the increasing number of such laws which have been slipped in without the notice of the Australian Public – by golly – we are inching our way in that direction.

It was the Kevin Andrews’ Private Member’s Bill supported by many on both sides of parliament – that led to the overturning of the world’s first Voluntary Euthanasia law, the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act in 1997.

Kevin Andrews’ seat is Menzies. This is the seat which Dr. Nitschke is contesting to underline the general support that Australians have for Voluntary Euthaniasia and the fact that elected representatives make these laws contrary to community feeling, illustrating the sway that the religious lobby have on politics in Australia.

There has been a groundswell of disatisfaction with the Howard Government, and both the Secular Party and Dr. Nitschke are both aware of the long history of religiously motivated intervention and special treatment on the part of the Howard Government. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that Kevin Rudd and other senior Labor Party politicians are all hostile to Voluntary Euthaniasia.

The Secular Party of Australia wishes Dr. Nitschke the best of success in his Menzies campaign, and Dr. Nitschke wishes the best to all Secular Party candidates over Australia. We hope that collectively we will show how strong the influence of religion on politics in Australia is, and just how desperately it needs to be eliminated.

Contacts : Philip Nitschke 0407 189339 John August 0419 683353

Philip Nitschke Menzies Campaign

Australia, Coal and Global Warming

27 September 2007

Global warming is a dire problem, and Australia, as the world’s leading coal exprorter, can do someting about it. So argues research economist and Party President, John L Perkins.

Newspaper article.

Freethought Parties Merge

20 August 2007

The two new political parties vying for the votes of freethinkers in Australia have merged. Both the Freedom From Religion Party and the Secular Party had the aim of “keeping religion out of politics”. In particular, our joint aims may be described as separation of religion from the institutions of state, neutrality between religions, and protection of human rights from religious interference.

While these aims describe modern secularism, the phrase “freedom from religion” neatly encapsulates them. We continue to endorse, of course, the more commonly used term “freedom of religion”, of which secularism is the primary guarantee.

As a result of the merger, the Secular Party has adopted “Freedom from Religion” as the primary slogan or sub-heading, and Frank Gomez has been appointed Vice President of the Secular Party.

Howard and Rudd at the Hillsong church

11 August 2007

Following Mr Howard’s and Mr Rudd’s joint appearance at the Hillsong Church, to canvass Christian voters, I would like to ask both of them the following question. Out of all the possible religions that have been known to humanity, why is it that you think that yours is the only one that is true?

I think I may assume that Mr Howard and Mr Rudd will be unable to provide a rational answer to this question, because there is none. Yet despite their differences, Mr Howard and Mr Rudd both claim that their religious beliefs provide them with their essential guiding principles. If someone is unable to give a rational account of what most deeply motivates them, are they really a suitable candidate for high office?

Given the world’s problems, is religion part of the solution or is it part of the problem? This is a question that many people are now beginning to ask. Rather than religion, a far better solution is to seek rational answers based on universal principles such as compassion, freedom, honesty and justice.

John L Perkins
President, Secular Party of Australia

ABS Statistics on Atheism and Religious Belief

10 August 2007

“The recent 2006 ABS statistics demonstrate that, contrary to perceptions about the increasing influence of new evangelical churches, Australia is undergoing a continuing shift towards less religious belief.”, said John August, NSW Secretary and media spokesperson for the Secular Party of Australia.

The statistics show that young people are becoming more non religious. As Lisa Pryor wrote recently ‘Atheism is a wonderful gift to give a child’.

This greater prevalence of atheism, together with the recent surge in popularity of books focused on Atheism, indicates more Australians think religions are unnecessary to a valid moral code and sense of purpose – a trend the Secular Party will reflect.

This trend suggests Australians will become more concerned about – and reject – the growing religious influence on politics. Howard has long pursued a religious agenda under the cover of “family values”. Rudd has also professed strong religious beliefs.

Which is not to criticise the Liberal Party as such. When John Hewson was leader, the party embraced ideals of tolerance and personal freedom of lifestyle and belief. Under Howard, the Liberal party has turned its back on these traditions, and turned towards a reactionary, conservative agenda of religious intervention. We wonder if Labor would be any different in Government.

The Secular Party embraces the tolerance which the Liberal Party has lost, from all angles. We endorse the right of all citizens to whatever personal beliefs they see fit to have – with the proviso that Government policy remains independent.

It is interesting to note that believers are also growing more tolerant and secular – a Newspoll survey commissioned in early 2006 by the Secular Party of Australia (in conjunction with the Australian National Secular Association and the NSW Humanists) showed that 49% of self identifying Catholics believed in legal recognition of same sex marriages – together with more than half of the general population.

We in the Secular Party look forward to riding the wave of increasing Secularism – and plan to articulate this important developing awareness. We plan to endorse candidates in the upcoming Federal Election, so Australians will be better able to express their concerns at the ballot box.

Victorian Government School Uniform Inquiry.

Secular Party Submission

7 June 2007

The Secular Party has argued that school uniforms should not make allowances for religious sensibilities. Rather than being an infringement of religious liberties, as is commonly supposed, such a policy is actually protective of religious freedom. Equal opportinity legislation specifies freedom to choose between religions. We argue that dressing school children, especially young children, in religious costumes serves to remove this freedom of choice, not enhance it.

Inquiry details.

Secular Party submission

Federally Funded Chaplains

Joint Press Release

30 October 2006

By initiating “a national chaplaincy program”, the Federal Government renewed and exacerbated harm for upcoming generations of students. The very act of a system authorized by parliament gives undue credibility to a set of myths, which are not supported by known facts. This is nothing less than the manipulation of the minds of children who are still learning critical analysis skills.

Existing chaplaincy programs demonstrate overwhelming attraction of the zealous evangelical/fundamentalist/Pentecostal side of Christianity whose one purpose in life is to win converts. The effects on students with other ‘faiths’ or none, will be negative, as their ‘beliefs’ or lack thereof are not privileged with the same government sanction. “Non-denominational” in essence, means Christian supremacy.

The consideration, that ‘values’ rest mainly within the precinct of a particular religion is patently false and arrogant. Such thinking emanates from religiously indoctrinated politicians and not from clear-headed evaluation of available empirical evidence. In fact, the opposite can often result exampled by an unnecessary confusion on social mores and curtailment of scientific endeavour.

Leaving the introduction of chaplaincy programs to cash strapped or agenda driven school councils and principals is inviting the worst outcome possible. The priority of the education system must be that properly trained professionals perform counselling of children. A few weeks course by persons of strong religious persuasion is a recipe with consequences that will include detrimental exploitation of young minds.

The duty of care to Australia’s most vulnerable citizens is compromised by curricula emphasising reliance on ‘faith’ over actual teaching of knowledge. Governments are elected to safeguard an open society, including its youngest members and not to propagandise narrow divisive viewpoints. Moreover, whether the official promotion of Christianity is an infringement of the overall intent of Section 116 of the Australian Constitution is a moot point.

We call upon members of parliament, state and federal, to not support this or any chaplaincy program but rather build upon existing initiatives more conducive to a pluralist society.

David Nicholls
President, Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc

Ian Robinson
President, Rationalist Society of Australia

John L Perkins
President, Secular Party of Australia

Dr Max Wallace
Australian National Secular Association (ANSA)

Humanist Society of Queensland

Steve Maxwell
Secretary, Rationalist Association of NSW

Humanist Society of NSW

Why Costello is wrong about secularism.

27 September 2006

In a speech condemned by Muslim leaders, the Australian Treasurer, Peter Costello defended the Pope’s criticism of Islam. Speaking on 23 September to the Australian Christian Lobby, Costello also advocated the merits of secularism. In this he held up Turkey as an example of a country that other Muslim nations should follow.

There was much in what the Treasurer said that made sense. The attitude from which his view derives however, has much to do with myth, misconception and misrepresentation. There is certainly much to be recommended in secularism. It does indeed promote economic progress as well as democracy – in fact it necessary for both. This was well recognised by Ataturk, who firmly entrenched secularism in Turkey for these very reasons. Turkey is a good example of secular state in a Muslim country, which is precisely why Muslims leaders do not like it. As Islam is inherently non-secular, they therefore see it as a betrayal of their faith.

Despite these positives, Mr Costello’s speech had serious problems. There is more than irony in an avowedly Christian politician lecturing Muslims at a Christian gathering on how they should implement their religion. But this was not the worst of Costello’s arrogance and hypocrisy. He claimed that secularism was part of Christian doctrine. Centuries of religious strife in Europe indicate otherwise.

Mr Costello is further in error when he promotes the myth that Australia is a secular country, Apart from the fact that the High Court in 1981 declared that there is no separation of church and state in Australia, Mr Costello also openly declares that Australia was founded on so called “Christian values”. These values are no doubt what leads to the enormous tax breaks given to religions and the fact that 70 percent of Federal funding for education goes to religious schools. These are hardly characteristics of a secular state, Mr Costello.

The underlying danger of the behaviour of people such as Mr Costello is that they just don’t see the problem. They are therefore in fact themselves part of the problem. Attacking Muslims is not a solution. What should be attacked are ideologies, not the people who adhere to them. While people may be amenable to reason, they will not be amenable to coercion. People such as Mr Costello are unable to see things this way because they themselves are victims on the same faults as the people they criticise. You cannot advocate rationalism if you are yourself incapable or unamenable to it.

The great tragedy of the so-called “war on terror”, of which Mr Costello and his Party are major proponents, is that it is entirely misconceived. The lesson of Ataturk, which Costello applauds, he has not himself followed. It is quite pointless to seek to impose democracy in any Islamic country without first securing secularism. The religious servitude implied by the rule of “God’s law” is plainly incompatible with the rule of law as determined democratically. This is an obvious fact, confirmed by numerous examples, which seems like many others, to have been strangely elusive to Western “intelligence”.

The consequences of this strategic blunder, that religious blindness on all sides has led to, are almost incalculable. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were purported to be to install democracy. Democracy is impossible without secularism, yet in no way has secularism been promoted by these invasions. Instead, Islam has been entrenched in the new constitutions of both Afghanistan and Iraq, thus condemning these countries to long term totalitarianism. The Western military involvement in these countries is now a doomed enterprise in pursuit of a goal that has already been rendered unachievable.

The only hope is that the world will somehow come to its senses, recognise that the pursuit of ancient religious ideologies is unnecessary, undesirable and inherently destructive. Instead, it is desperately necessary that we dedicate ourselves to the common good of humanity, based on the universal principles of freedom, justice, honesty and compassion.

(Dr) John L Perkins
President, Secular Party of Australia

Statement about Lebanon

18 August 2006

The Secular Party of Australia, while recognising the right of a nation to defend itself from attacks and from having its citizens kidnapped, believes that in the recent hostilities, the Israeli response was quite disproportionate. An endless escalation of the cycle of violence offers no prospect of peace…

On-line article.

Major public conference on Secularism

18-19 June 2006

On-line article.

National Inquiry into Discrimination against People in Same-Sex Relationships

Secular Party Submission

16 June 2006

There can be no doubt that many legal provisions that discriminate against same-sex relationships violate basic human rights. The question, rather, is why have these violations been implemented, upheld and lately, even reinforced?

Presumably some defence of these violations may be found in the provision that basic human rights may be limited, but only “for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in democratic society” (UN UDHR Article 29)(32). Again presumably, the violations may be countenanced under this provision on the grounds that same-sex relationships violate some view of morality.

However this argument is hardly ever put explicitly by legislators because it is so vacuous. Quite obviously same-sex relationships, do not, of themselves, cause any harm. Therefore, based on universal moral principles, there are no grounds for suggesting they are immoral. Instead, it is quite apparent that the perceptions of morality that motivate legislators derive from their religious beliefs, or from the beliefs of religious pressure groups to which they respond.

It is widely claimed by religious leaders, that religious beliefs, of themselves, provide reliable instruction in morality. These claims are widely accepted. However these claims are quite bogus. There are no grounds whatsoever for contending that rules based on dogma derived from ancient cultural mythology should be preferred to modern ethical standards. Conversely the dishonest truth claims and entrenched bigotry that is to some extent a necessary part of all religions inevitably lead to violations of the universal moral principles of compassion, honesty, freedom and justice.

Erroneous religious perceptions of morality necessarily intrude in this way on the legitimate rights and freedoms of individuals. Where governments implement these views in legislation they not only violate secular principles, but they violate morality based on universal values. Proponents of such bigotry should cease and desist from this unwarranted intrusion and interference in the lives of citizens.

John L Perkins
President, Secular Party of Australia

Secular Party submission

The Secular Party on Channel 10

14 April 2006

As part of its ‘Watercooler’ segment on the 9am with David & Kim program, Channel 10 presented a discussion about the question “Should we allow religion in schools?” Joining regular hosts David Reyne and Kim Watkins, were special guests Sherene Hassan from the Islamic Council of Victoria, and Bill Firman, Principal at De La Salle Catholic College. The Atheist Foundation of Australia called upon Secular Party president John Perkins to represent them in the discussion…

On-line article.

The Annual Conference of the Council of Australian Humanist societies 2006

9 April 2006

On-line article.

Why the Prime Minister is wrong about the separation of church and state in Australia

14 March 2006

On 28 February Democrats’ Senator Allison moved a motion which had as its intention a legislative change towards Australia separating church and state. The Prime Minister responded on 2 March that

“What the separation of church and state means in this country is that there is no established church .. we don’t have the Anglican Church as the official state religion, that’s what it means…”

On-line article. Printable version.

Prime Minister’s reason for burqa being confronting is twisted

The Prime Minister, Mr Howard, has declared that he finds the full head-to-toe Islamic dress “confronting”. He said that most Australians would agree with him. On this issue, the Secular Party does agree with him, but for different reasons. Mr Howard would find that the burqa confronts his Christian values. We find that our secular values are confronted…article

The Prime Minister is incorrect

when he said at his press conference 2 March: “A secular state means that there is no established church as the official head of state. It doesn’t mean that we abandon our Judeo-Christian heritage or that we eliminate official reference to God”… article

 

Offensive political cartoons

7 March 2006

A clear principle is at stake regarding the publication of the controversial cartoons. Of course one should not publish something that is deliberately inflammatory. However one should not refrain from publishing something merely because it may offend a particular religious taboo. The appropriate course, as with some TV programmes, is to issue a warning on the cover that the following content may be offensive to some readers…

Article

Newspoll says yes to separation of church and state

Our commissioned Newspoll shows the majority thinks there is no separation of church and state but that there should be. Additionally, the majority favours same sex relationships should be formally recognised.

21 Feb 2006

Aggregated results are:

BELIEVE THERE IS OR IS NOT A LAW SEPARATING CHURCH AND STATE IN AUSTRALIA.

YES, There is a law 20%; NO, There is NOT a law 46% Don’t know 34%

INTRODUCE A NEW LAW TO SEPARATE RELIGION AND GOVERNMENT IN AUSTRALIA?

Yes 45%; No 36%; Don’t know 20%

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD INTRODUCE A NEW LAW TO FORMALLY RECOGNISE SAME SEX RELATIONSHIPS IN AUSTRALIA

Yes 52% No 37% Don’t know 11%

Details