Relationship between church and state in australia


relationship between church and state in australia

The Constitution of Australia prevents the Commonwealth from establishing any religion or requiring a religious test for any office:—. Ch 5 § The. Church and state relations continue to remain unclear in Australia. Throughout the eighteenth and legal relationship between the church and state in Australia . How is the church and state relationship regulated in Australian law? What do state, and Australia through a de facto relationship between church and state.

By Professor Denise Meyerson. There are a variety of constitutional models governing the relations between the state and religion. These range from atheist states at one end of the spectrum to outright theocracies at the other. In between the two extremes, the extent of the contact between government and religious organisations is a matter of degree.

There is no such restriction on the legislative power of the States and Territories. In the United States, the First Amendment is understood to impose a stringent separation between religion and the state.

Neutrality commands that laws must have a secular purpose: More importantly, neutrality also demands that laws must not have the effect of assisting a particular religion or religion in general, regardless of their purpose. Applying this approach, the US Supreme Court has disallowed religious activities in public schools, such as prayers and religious instruction. It has also disallowed state funding of religious schools.

The Court reasons that even if the funds are intended for legitimate secular activities or purposes, such as the maintenance and repair of classrooms, the funds assist religious schools to advance their sectarian goals. For instance, religious classes will be held in the classrooms that the state has paid to maintain and repair. Instead, the point of the establishment clause is to guarantee the equal treatment of believers and non-believers.

The need to protect non-believers against discrimination goes very far, with the Supreme Court saying that any endorsement or sponsorship of a particular religion or religion in general sends a message of inferiority and exclusion to non-believers. The High Court of Australia has found that the point of section of the Constitution is merely to prevent the Commonwealth from passing laws that are intended and designed to establish a state religion, such as the Anglican Church in England, which has special privileges and is also subject to state control in certain matters.

This interpretation led the High Court to hold in the DOGS case that public aid to religious schools does not breach section The case dealt with Commonwealth statutes that granted money to the States on condition that the money was paid to non-government schools, many of them religious schools, to finance their educational programs, including the construction of buildings.

The Court upheld the statutes. It is obvious that the US insistence that laws may not be passed if they have the effect of advancing religion imposes certain disadvantages on religion that are not imposed by the Australian approach to establishment. Which approach is preferable? According to these critics, refusing to assist religion is anything but neutral. On the contrary, it is the equivalent of hostility to or bias against religion.

Although there is no doubt that many people find this argument seductive, I believe that it is confused. The story of the making of the Constitution is quite complex, as you could imagine. But when you see what resulted and the conventions of the s, there was general agreement that something like the American settlement of a separation in church and state would be desirable. And the section of the Constitution with regards to religion is directly copied from the American Constitution, which has led many people to think that we imported a separation of church and state into Australia, into the Constitution, which is not true.

And the reason that it is not true is that this wasn't the most important issue facing the fathers of our Constitution. The most important one was the relationship between a new Commonwealth government and the state governments that they all had come from, and the determination, and it's issued in the making of the Constitution itself, is that the states should maintain as much as possible of the rights that they had before, just giving up the very bare minimum.

Now, the thing about religion is religion was something that the states or the colonies as they were had been managing for themselves, and they weren't prepared to give it up. There were people in the constitutional conventions who wanted to have a separation of church and state, but if it meant that the Commonwealth would take over powers from the state governments, then no.

So the phrasing of the amendment in the Constitution, which is Sectionrestricts the Commonwealth. They won't, but they could. Or 'prohibiting the free exercise of any religion'; New South Wales can still prohibit the free exercise of a religion if it wants to. There are various laws in all the states now which bring about the same kind of thing, but they are not forced to by the Constitution. The same-sex marriage debate has thrust Australia's churches and religious leaders into the media spotlight, perhaps in a way not seen for decades.

This Rear Vision is looking at the singular relationship between church, politics and government in Australia. The sectarian divide which had characterised the early decades of white settlement continued to be reflected in Australian politics in the decades after federation.

It's a huge issue, right up until the s, and arguably even today.

Separation of church and state in Australia - Wikipedia

The basic reasons were these. Firstly, most Englishmen and most Scotsmen and Welshmen were Protestants. The vast majority of Irish men and women were Catholic, even though Ireland had an established Protestant Church. Catholics historically had been banned by law in all British countries from occupying positions of power, in the law and in politics.

So in very general terms, the Church of England was the church of the aristocracy, the wealthy, big business, the Catholic Church was the church of the working class. So were the Methodists on the Protestant side to some extent, and there were exceptions to all these rules.

But when you talk about the Irish Catholic tradition, you are really talking about the lower classes of Australian society. And the traditional link, for example, between the Labor Party and the Catholic Church is because of that.

So these religious differences were expressed politically as well, were they? I mean, after the plebiscites on conscription during World War I which led to the first great split in the Labor Party when Billy Hughes took out all the Protestants more or less, the Labor Party for the next 50 years, its base was very much the Catholic Church, the Catholic working class.

And then with the second great Labor split, the creation of the DLP in the s which took a significant slice of that working-class Catholic vote away from Labor, kept them out of office for the best part of 20 years. So these have had huge direct effects on politics, on the state, so to speak, in recent 20th century history, let alone 19th century.

Despite these sectarian differences, the 20 years following federation were largely characterised by harmony between church and state, according to Roy Williams. Some people argue this as the example of the closest link between church and state, and that is in the social legislation of the first 20 years or so.

I'm speaking about temperance laws, the closing times of hotels, licensing of pubs, sale of alcoholic beverages, gambling laws, prostitution laws, abortion laws.

The churches were a very, very powerful lobby group in the early years. These were mainly state laws, not federal laws, but that's when we had all the referenda on, for example the closing hours of hotels.

And they stayed in place…6 o'clock closing, they stayed in place for decades, right up until the s in some cases. There were even votes on prohibition, which were all defeated but not by much in some places. They are concrete examples of what you might call wowserism by the churches actually becoming the law of the land.

And interestingly it was mainly women and Protestant men who voted for these restrictive measures. I mean, alcoholism was a scourge, it still is, and churches recognised that. And their solution…I mean, you can argue whether it was the right one, was temperance. In the s, there was an incident in New South Wales that perhaps tested the limits to that consensus. It was a dispute over marriage. At the beginning of the 20th century the Catholic Church in Rome…Rome changed its rules for what it regarded as a valid marriage.

It was a decree called Ne Temere. And it made the ridiculous assertion basically that a marriage between a Catholic and another Catholic was a valid as long as it was done in a Catholic church before a Catholic person.

A marriage between two Protestants in a Protestant church was perfectly valid also.

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But a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, which was not done in a Catholic church, was not valid. In the s there was a fairly conservative party in New South Wales and a very sectarian party, very Protestant and very anti-Catholic, and it regarded this as a challenge to the state to define what a valid marriage was.

And so the state election in New South Wales was fought largely on the issue of how much the state could do to stop the Catholic community from implementing the Ne Temere legislation in Australia. It's a fairly straight-out clash. The conservative government got in in and tried to implement it, and fortunately the upper house wasn't very happy about cooperating with it, even though they were largely sectarian also, they thought this was just pushing a bit too hard.

It was a very interesting event, especially in the light of present-day concerns about the definition of marriage and what should be done. The Menzies coalition government settled the long-running debate over state aid to religious schools by reintroducing it in the s, but the consensus between church and state of the early 20th century fell apart during the s and '70s, as rapid social change seemed to leave many religious leaders out of step with the times. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Cardinal Knox has described abortion as the most important political issue facing Australia at the moment.

Taking as an obvious example, endorsement or otherwise of attitude towards involvement in the Vietnamese war. Do you think the Church should come out with an emphatic statement one way or the other on this?

For more than five years the Catholic Church had been debating birth control.

relationship between church and state in australia

Finally on July 25, Pope Paul the sixth spoke and banned all methods of artificial birth control unconditionally. The Catholic Church was very strong, and the Catholic Church was, to use very broad-brush terminology, left-wing on issues of economic justice, but very conservative on social questions, as were most of the Protestant churches.

So you actually had a majority for these what would now be regarded as very reactionary social views. Everything changed in the s, that was the key decade where everything changed, and views differ as to what the causes of that were. I mean, I've got my own theories, but the relationship between church and state radically altered over the next 20 years, between about and And why do you think that happened?

It's a combination of factors, but that's certainly when levels of religious belief start to decline quite sharply.

Various factors in the mix. The Vietnam War was arguably one of them, because it was so strongly supported, wrongly, by churches of all stripes, and became such a catastrophe that a whole generation of people became deeply disillusioned with authority generally, and the churches suffered probably more than most institutions. The contraceptive pill was undoubtedly a huge social change, coincided with the so-called sexual revolution.

Again, the church is lost their authority on vital teachings. And what has been changing over these last 50 years or so is the proportion of people in Australia who are attached to the various religions. Every census the proportion of people who put themselves down as 'no religion' or 'atheist' or 'Jedi' or whatever they like is getting higher and higher. And that has changed the whole attitude of politics.

There are fewer people who regard themselves as strong members of the Anglican or Catholic or Uniting church or whatever, and many more people who don't regard those sorts of allegiances as having the slightest importance. So whereas in the s Catholics would often listen to what the bishops were saying and sometimes even probably vote the way they did, they won't now, I'll tell you that.

He compared Australia with other similar countries for his book The Challenge of Pluralism: Church and State in Six Democracies. Australia is similar to or different from countries, depending on the issue. So one obvious example is that Australia finances religious schools, and that does not happen in the United States. Australia is also distinctive in those six countries in the diversity of schools that they finance.

So they are much more expansive in promoting religious schools through state finance. Staying in the education field, I would say Australia is distinctive in its chaplaincy program. So I think that Australia would have more religious exercises or activities in state run schools than would be the case for the other countries in our study, although some of them would have some religious exercises, again the United States being the outlier, and France with having none.

One of the other features of the historical evolution of the relationship between the churches and government in Australia is the role that churches play in the provision of social services.

Is that the way it works in the countries you looked at? I would say at one end of the spectrum would be France in our study where the vast majority of social welfare services are provided by the government. I would say Australia is at the other end of the spectrum where most of the financing is coming from the government, but most of the delivery of those services is coming through non-profit organisations, most of which are religious in orientation.

Part of that is just historical.

Religion-State relations in Australia

The churches were the first organisations on the ground to provide health services, services to the indigent, even education. So when the state expands its role as the Australian state did shortly after the Second World War, there were already organisations on the ground providing that aid, and the decision was made to funnel the additional monies through those existing religious organisations.

But again, I think Australia among the six countries is probably the one that relies most heavily on non-profit organisations, and again, most of which have some kind of religious character to them. What about the relationship between church and politics in the countries that you looked at? Because obviously there is a very influential evangelical and religious component to political life in the United States.

relationship between church and state in australia

For example, we've heard about it a lot in the years since Ronald Reagan when it appeared to emerge in a way that it perhaps hadn't done before. Did you look at that too in relation to the countries you studied? We did, and to some extent political mobilisation along religious lines is driven by how religious the particular population of the countries are.

So in a country like France where there is very low levels of religious attendance, while people might identify as Catholic, there's very little activism. There's not a whole lot of political mobilisation along religious lines because that's not a way to activate people electorally.

So here I think Australia is in some ways modelling more closely the American model. Obviously conservative Christian voters are much more powerful in the US than they are in Australia, but they are more powerful in Australia than they are in France or Germany or the Netherlands or the United Kingdom. And so, as you know, there has been lobbying organisations in Australia initially that were set up to look like the evangelical counterparts in the United States.