Monday, March 02, 2009


Interesting piece today about submissions to the Australian Human Rights Commission on freedom of religion.

It appears that groups that could benefit are arguing against the laws on the basis that they might result in restrictions on the tax advantages received by a number of religions. I have just finished reading Michael Bachelard's Behind the Exclusive Brethren, which is a fascinating read about how one particular sect has pursued its own agenda, and has staked out a moral code at odds with mainstream Australia.

I think sects like theirs need to be afraid of decent law on freedom of religion, and its counterpoint, the separation of church and state. I have some views that I've shared previously on this site, but my simple summary of the "rules" that need to apply in identifying a religion and what its associated freedoms entail is as follows;

1. The religion itself must preach religious tolerance. It may be a "prosletysing" religion, but it must not object to the practice of any other religion.
2. It must be an open religion. Any person seeking to join the religion should be feree to do so so long as they profess the faith expressed by the religion.
3. The religion's financial records and accounts must be kept in accordance with accounting standards and be as transparent as a secular organisation of the same size.
4. The religion must promote compliance with the law, even if that law authorises something the religion finds abhorant (or prohibits an action the religion wishes to pursue).

Once these are accepted I don't have too much difficulty with existing tax exemptions or funding for social activities (education, health, advice lines) by such groups. But these standards need to be accepted and Government needs to arm itself with a mechanism (presumably through the courts) to determine that an association does not meet the requirements of a "religious organisation".

Sounds easy!

No comments: