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.

Aug 14, 2010