The Liberal Party in Australia, taking a page from the Religious Right in America, has hit on a new “slogan”. The slogan is “Religious Freedom”.
You are going to hear this a lot in the coming months. FIRIS supports “religious freedom” too, its one of the mainsprings of a free and open society.
One does not however support religious freedom if, as a politician, one believes that the Government should “accredit” religious groups to do missionary activities inside its schools, at the same time that it ALSO obligates children to be present inside these schools. This is very important for everyone to understand.
Australian Colonists, in the 19th century were among the first peoples ever to cast off the denominational and sectarian dictates in establishing an education system which was “founded on” the “secular principle”. The reason they did this was exactly because of “religious freedom” – the colonists then, unlike the Liberal Party today, understood that education was vital to the prospects of this distant land, and further they realized that keeping Government out of the affairs of religion was good policy.
Religious Freedom meant then, and it means now, “no religious tests” for “office. This phrase is actually in the Australian Constitution, but the courts have not felt it should apply to “school chaplains” – the liberal Government now wants to make policy which imposes a “religious test” to perform “welfare work” in its schools. It also wants to place this decision in the hands of “school principals”. This is not religious freedom, it is handing out favors.
Similarly, the policy of “Religious Instruction” places the authority of the Minister of Education in the control of “religious groups”, who then have the authority to tell everyone in the schools what do do during a certain time of the day.
This is not “religious freedom” it is coercion.
Here is proof of this. In this clip you will hear and ACCESS Ministry volunteer proclaim that they are happy that when they go into schools, the children whose parents do not want them to receive “religious instruction” are made to sit in the room and listen to the lessons.
The speaker clearly states that she is happy about this, because the “message of the gospel” is still being heard.
In short, “religious freedom” in the context of school policy in Australia means:
1. granting licences to religious groups to operate inside its schools
2. forcing people who object to these “religious teachings” to have their children endure the teachings whether they like it or not.
Religious Freedom does not mean that you are entitled to close my children in a room with evangelists and force them to listen to their religious teachings. That is what happens all the time in State Schools, because a very small group of activists lie and claim that their religious freedom is being imposed on if they can’t preach to my children and if the Government of Australia will not set up exclusive funds to pay the salaries of Chaplains, which are then handed over to only some religious organisations.
Welcome to the newspeak version of “Religious Freedom”