Holy Books 4 new Aussies?

Senator Guy Barnett of Tasmania continues to argue for the freedom to gift the Bible at Citizenship ceremonies. The Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is still looking at the code’s ”appropriateness”.

See, MPs attack Bible ‘madness’ and from October last year, No Holy Books 4 new Aussies.

I cannot find any convincing reason to prohibit the offering of a Holy Book at a citizenship ceremony.

It is important to note that ‘Secular’ in the Australian context means that no religion will be advantaged over another religion by the state. In Australia the state treats all religions equally. ‘Secular’ does not mean the ‘separation of church and state’ as in the USA.

Let’s get one point clear at the beginning: Australia does not have a legally entrenched principle, or even a vague set of conventions, of the separation of church and state. From the appointment of Rev. Samuel Marsden as one of the first magistrates in colonial New South Wales, to the adoption of explicit policies of state aid for denominational schools during the 1960s, to the two examples mentioned above, Australia has had a very consistent tradition of cooperation between church and state. ‘Separation of church and state’, along with ‘the separation of powers’ or ‘pleading the Fifth’, are phrases that we have learned from the US, and which merely serve to confuse once they are taken out of the context of the American Constitution.

What Australia does have is a principle of state neutrality, or equal treatment, when dealing with churches.

Article, Separation of church and state? by Michael Hogan, The University of Sydney, ARPA, 16 May 2001.

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