It merits considering the conditions that exist in other countries when it comes to thinking about the role of religion and civil laws in Australia.
Here is a infuriating article about the insidious and revolting effects of clerical rule in society:
Before we get feeling all smug – lets not forget that these same kinds of bearded and robed men used to make similar rules for our ancestors. It was against this kind of “beyond the reach of appeal” rule making that human rights emerged. So it should be with no small amount of pride, and seriousness that we patrol the border of religious toleration and religious freedom.
Groups like ACCESS ministry, UJEB and the other participants in SRI – up end this tradition and make a perverse argument. They are essentially saying that the government of Australia should give us time during a state mandated activity (ie school) when children must be present – so that we can instruct them. Rather than celebrate the fact that no religious groups should have claim on public institutions – we have heard all manner of squealing from religious groups who are delighted to be “authorized” by the government to have “access” to “their” children.
Groups that are promoting the maintenance of the 1950 era “Special Religious Instruction” policy – a law designed explicitly to divide children in our schools by their religious affiliations – and to explicitly set up negotiations between the Department of Education and religious bodies asserting that they speak for various “communities” of people – are really scared of one thing – and out of fear for this one thing – they are willing to trample everyone’s rights.
What is the one thing? Well the one thing is that they are afraid that genuine religious freedom is bad for their religion – a society that refuses to make any rule for religion – is seen by them as a threat to them – because freedom means people might simply decide to do other things besides practice their religion.
Of course, this is not true – religion flourishes under the banner of freedom – in place like Victoria, people from every creed are treated equally, and they make the most of their equality – in ways that have meaning to them.
It is a long way from SRI to the decrees of religious intolerance on the Arabian Peninsula – but the urge is the same and while there is no comparison between the religious police jailing a family in Rihad for their beliefs – and the policy of asking families to decide to put their kids in ACCESS classes or sit quietly in the corner – they are conceptually similar acts – they arise from the same place – and if unchecked, if allowed to move to their logical conclusions – both result in the exact same place … the logic is inevitable – and the need to work to prevent it – in small ways, such as reforming SRI – is important, as our culture stands apart for this reason and is an almost singular maker of our achievement as a civilization.