INSIGHT ON SECULARISM AND THE ROLE OF RELIGION ON OUR LEGISLATION
Monday 22nd January, 2007 – Ipswich North&Suburbs branch meeting.
Discussion facilitator, Julie McNeill.
With the increasing influence and public monies going towards religious organisations for provision of health and welfare services to the general public, I – as a free thinker – would like us to reflect, research and discuss the role that religions ought to have on our evolution as a secular society.
It is vital that the Australian Labor Party be clear about this in relation to the messages, policies and programs we present to Australia at the next election. The separation of State and Church is seen as a fundamental key to maintaining a cohesive, inclusive and progressive society.
Points to consider:
1. Australian Constitution: Henry Higgins(Lawyer, committed Secularist and public campaigner against compulsory Religious Education in State Schools(1900) recognised the need to have Freedom of, and Freedom from, Religion. He was instrumental in putting into our Constitution that
116. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
Justice Lionel Murphy stated that
Section 116 contained a great right, and ‘great rights’, are often expressed in simple phrases. ‘It would detract greatly from the freedom of and from religion guaranteed by those clauses if they were to be read narrowly.’ To interpret this section as prohibiting only the establishment of a single religion is to mis-read it: the section refers to the establishment of any religion. It works thus as a guarantee of freedom from religion, as well as of religion.
2. Life & Death and everything in between. THE ROLE OF GENDER POLITICS – THE PERSONAL IS STILL POLITCAL
I’ve had a fair share of my personal views and experiences covered in the local papers lately, in relation to the increasing trend of the Howard Government to throw money to religious organisations for public welfare and health services, eg. chaplains in state schools, pregnancy counselling, buying/running public hospitals with religious doctrine as policy. I am passionate about this issue because the effect on our lives of religious beliefs has and can impact on our experience of suffering and achieving our potential as human beings.(Consider the millions of victims of HIV in SE Asia and the Pacific, Africa whose Church will not promote the use of condoms).
There is always the contest of ideas, but what the guiding principles of secularism does is promote the integrity of each man and woman to take responsibility and to use the knowledge and evidence of Science for our best interests. As a woman I will gather the facts and make the decision about what is best for me in particular to my body in life, unto death. Feelings aren’t facts, so my spiritual side is that side of the brain which is stimulated by a sense of oneness and the kalaidescope of imagination that creates and finds beauty. I wrote a poetry performance show in Melbourne which described the sacred joy and wonder of conceiving a child, but I also intuitively knew when I couldn’t bare another. No man can dictate to me because of his interpretation of an ancient text I respect – but don’t believe in myself.
For 200 years in the Black Country my grandmothers followed their men with their barrows full of kids from mine to mine till menopause set in. In 1847 my Great Great Great Grandmother Ann Brothwood was in the Wolverhampton Union Poor House and made to wear a special mark on her uniform to show she was a wicked unwed mother.
In 1938 my nan gave birth to a baby girl whilst in domestic service so my grandparents bought the child up as their own and nobody knew of her shame untill 1982. My nan got married to a Higgins, whose Irish parents had dropped the O’ so nobody would discriminate against them, so by the time my dad grew up in the 1950’s he was full of the Protestant British Empire who couldn’t trust the lazy Paddies, not realising until I told him his roots were from Ireland, and he vilified his own!
In 1941 my mother was born in Father Hudsons Home and told she didn’t belong to anybody. Even God rejected her because she was a bastard ‘ even to the 10th generation’ (Deuteronomy), but the Church, then shipped her out to New South Wales to be trained for domestic labour. The long term effects of such treatment by Church and State I submitted to the Senate Enquiry reports of the Forgotten Australians.
Enough about me! What about you? share your views and thoughts on the subject…
3. WHERE TO FROM HERE? How does the Branch collectively view the role of religion on our legislation and policies that provide for the public good? Shall we prepare a motion to go to State Office?
Julie McNeill – Fernvale
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