Separation of Church and State in Australia

There’s been a whole bunch of grunting from the pig pen of what passes for political debate in this country of late bemoaning the lack of separation between church and state. I’m and strong atheist and secular humanist and I’ve had enough of it.

Let’s start with the fundamentals – section 116 of the Constitution:

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, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

That’s it. Separation of church and state …. Done.

Whining about MP’s bringing their religious beliefs into parliament is just plain stupid. Ours is a representative democracy and as much as I think the beliefs of, say, Fred Nile in NSW and Tony Abbott at the federal level are antithetical to an open, civil and caring society, the people in their electorates keep voting for them. These are the people they want to represent them. To bar these people from office because they hold particular beliefs is contrary to section 116.

Complaining about religious schools receiving government funding demonstrates a similar lack of understanding of this section of the Constitution. Schools founded on religious principles as well as the smaller number of schools with other philosophical foundations (ie: Steiner, Montessori, etc) cannot be barred from receiving funding as long as they follow the recognized and approved curriculum. Several of these school are not eligible for funding for this very reason and cannot teach their own preferred curriculum.

However, those truly serious about the separation of church and state in this country do have something the can and should complain about – although on this point there is a notable silence from the swill trough. This is the reliance on the charitable and religious sectors to provide the social services it is the goverment’s duty to provide.