3. Religion and the State – practice and expression

3.1 What are some consequences of the emergence of faith-based services as major government service delivery agencies?

1. Faith-based agencies should not deliver government services. Faith-based agencies follow religious texts that discriminate against others, including women, homosexuals, non-believers and people not of their religion. They impose their religious views on others, overtly or stealthily. Religious schools discriminate against teachers who do not have the same religious values. No organisations that discriminate should be eligible for government funding.

2. Religion is a divisive issue, and that alone should prevent faith-based agencies providing government services. Religions can gain greater exposure by providing government services. However, religious groups should not provide government services because people should not be subjected to the customs of other religions, whether it be chats about God or Allah or religious symbols on hospital walls. Discrimination is wrong and should not be permitted.

3. Australians requiring medical treatment can be referred by their specialist for treatment in private hospitals, many of which are run by religious organisations. Non-Catholics should not need to attend a hospital that aims to ‘strengthen and develop Catholic health at regional and national levels’. Whatever this means (and what about the health of non-Catholics), it is discriminatory for something as fundamental as health care for Australians.

4. It seems that faith-based agencies do not pay tax and have an unfair advantage in a business environment. If this is the case, organisations that are intrinsically more efficient will be unable to compete. If religions were to pay tax, not discriminate and not force their views on others (this is unlikely, as many religions see the imposition of their beliefs on others as their reason for being), then Australia would go some way to ensuring all Australian groups are treated equally.

3.2 How should government accommodate the needs of faith groups in addressing issues such as religion and education, faith schools, the building of places of worship, religious holy days, religious symbols and religious dress practices?

5. A secular state is a non-divisive state unconcerned with religion; it favours no religions and no one religion. In a secular state, religious activity is not special and should not be treated differently to other activities. Australia should be secular. A secular Australia would be inclusive of all Australians, rather than divisive.

6. In the workplace, people are not encouraged to wear religious dress or symbols any more than people are encouraged to wear their tennis uniform, which is not at all. Religious dress should be for church and tennis uniforms for the tennis club. But if in the workplace some people were to wear religious dress, then other people could wear religious symbols, other people could put religious symbols or naked pictures above their desk at work, other people could sing religious songs at lunch time, other people could prefix every sentence with ‘because God loves you’, and a divisive contest of religious one-upmanship results. Throughout history, such contests have invariably resulted in violent conflict. Contests of religious one-upmanship should be stopped before they start. All are unacceptable.

7. Religion is divisive and different people have different views. We do not advertise our sporting preferences, political allegiances or sexual preferences when we are in the workplace, because this is inappropriate. In the workplace, and in our public institutions, we are there to work, and not to harass others with our personal views, whether they be that South Sydney or Brisbane Lions rule, that homosexuality is for everyone, or that Christianity or Islam is superior. People can do what they like in their own personal leisure time, outside of work, outside of school, outside of government-funded institutions, outside of Parliament, but to do so in work hours is imposing one’s personal views on others, and this can be offensive. It also provides a means of discrimination. Ironically, religious people, who often have such firmly entrenched views, might actually be most offended by other people’s religious symbols and dress.

8. Should Australians support people wearing uniforms or symbols from the past that cause great offence? Is other religious attire, for example crosses or burkas, any less offensive? The principle should be the same for all offensive attire, and unless we prohibit religious symbols and dress, a divisive society is the likely result.

9. There should be no support for religious places of worship, or for religious holy days, religious symbols or dress practices any more than there is for tennis clubs to build a tennis clubhouse or for their members to have a holiday on the day of the Australian Open final. To do so is to favour religious groups over others, and doing so discriminates against those that are not religious. Discrimination is wrong.

10. How would Australian Christians react if a week of holidays were announced in honour of other non-Christian religions? If Christians felt disappointed or angry because another religion was being imposed on them, then that is probably what people of other religions think about the Easter and Christmas holidays. In this respect, Christians should not attach more weight to their own interests than the interests of others. Changing the name of Christmas Day to something like ‘Family and Friends Day (FAF Day)’, ‘Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Day’, ‘Environment Day’, ‘Intellectual Freedom Day’, or ‘Make the World a Better Place Day’ could be better alternatives.

3.3 Is current legislation on burial practice and autopsy practice adequate? Are any other of your religious practices inhibited by law, procedural practice or policy (i.e. education or health)?

11. About 70-80% of Australians believe that voluntary euthanasia should be a valid option for those who want it. Voluntary euthanasia, as a belief that does not directly affect others, is currently forbidden by law.

12. Organ donation is an important issue because many Australians cannot obtain donor organs. An organ donation system on death that by default requires participation by everybody, and which requires people to opt-opt if they do not want to participate for religious or other personal reasons, would allow more Australians to lead healthier and more productive lives.

13. With respect to burial practice and autopsy practice, religious organisations should not be afforded rights other than those given to other Australians.