Freedom of Religion: Introduction

1. This paper has been prepared as a submission to the Inquiry into the Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century by the Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission). I note that the Discussion Paper produced by the Commission lists the objectives for the Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century project. My submission helps the Commission meet these objectives by providing arguments that are much too infrequently expressed.

2. I am a scientist and ethicist who approaches issues with objectivity and a rational mind and who makes decisions on significant issues based on evidence. Consequently, I do not believe in any gods or deities and am not religious. Probably about 30% of Australians are not religious.

3. I approach the issue of freedom of religion and belief from the perspective of an Australian male who contends that an individual’s rights are paramount. Consequently, I support the right of all to believe what they will, as long as they do not discriminate against others or impose, unethically and hypocritically, their views on others through physical, emotional or legislative means, or otherwise oppress or deny other people their rights or freedom of choice. My analysis in this submission has been developed in support of this philosophy.

4. This submission is concerned with the rights of individuals to have choice in their religion and belief. Some of the submission’s more significant points are the following.

· People are religious primarily through religious indoctrination, and because of its subjective cultural basis, they should not be permitted to force their views on others, even by stealth.

· No religions or belief systems should be imposed on people, including children. Religions should never be able to discriminate against groups of people, whether they be women, homosexuals, non-believers or others, whether overtly or stealthily, because equivalently, religious people would not like to be discriminated against.

· The fundamental rights of people must be maintained. Religions should have no more rights than any other groups of Australians.

· Religions have a long history of violence and turmoil, and being divisive through discrimination. They should not be permitted to provide government services.

· Religion’s substantial problems need to be addressed; otherwise, freedom of choice in religion and belief will be affected, as will the likelihood that Australia can move towards a tolerant, inclusive, multicultural, secular and more egalitarian future.

5. I would be happy to expand on my paper if required.