That the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and DLP senator John Madigan are outraged at the prospect of including RU486 in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme comes as no surprise to Secular Party of Australia Treasurer, Rosemary Sceats. Ms Sceats was responding to a comment from the ACL that “people with a philosophical or conscientious objection to abortion, which is a great many Australians, would then be forced to pay for something which they believe is wrong”.
“This is a spurious position,” said Ms Sceats. “Have they ever stopped to consider that the even greater number of Australians with no religious belief are forced to contribute to the estimated $32 billion-plus per annum in taxpayer support for religious organisations, through grants, direct and indirect subsidies, and generous tax concessions, deductions and exemptions, merely for ‘advancing religion’ per se as a so-called ‘charitable purpose’ providing a public benefit? Surely this is an even greater outrage.”
Ms Sceats pointed out that the treatment of ‘advancing religion’ as a charitable activity is an outmoded anachronism dating back to the time of Queen Elizabeth the First, when religious organisations actually did provide a public benefit through charitable services to the needy in the absence of government-funded social services.
“Religious belief and observance are personal and private matters that should not be funded by governments, which have a duty to spend tax money for the good of society in general. They should not be required to cater for individual demands of a private nature. Tax collection and expenditure are all about meeting community needs.”
Ms Sceats illustrated her point with the example of people who are childless by choice due to strong moral opinions on global population and the environment. “Should such people be able to avoid contributing through their taxes to the funding of pregnancy services, hospital births, the baby bonus and so on? Of course not! I don’t get to pick and choose how the money I pay in tax should be spent, and neither should members of the ACL.”
She added that there is a strong case that cost-effective provision of RU486 provides a service to the community, by facilitating safe and early terminations in cases of contraceptive failure, medical complications, rape, and economic hardship. “The ‘advancement of religion’, on the other hand, is not good for the community in that it does not provide a public benefit,” she concluded.
May 2, 2013