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Is the separation of church and state a reality in Australia today?

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We live in a nation which claims to be a democracy which has, at its base, separation of church and state. In theory, each of us can adopt any belief system which we find appropriate without any discrimination from the state or from any other member of the society. We must not impinge on the rights of others but then others must not impinge on our rights.

I find this theory to be honoured in the breach. As an atheist, I am expected to keep my opinions to myself while the proponents of the various religions take it as their right to legislate against behaviour which their belief system does not accept.

I have no problem with people believing whatever they want as long as they don't try to force their particular brand on others. I have no problem with discussion and debate aimed at convincing others to join a particular religion but it is only right that the choice be left to each individual. The concept of coercion in regard to proselytising must be seen as unethical.

We do need to establish a common set of value which we all accept as the basis of our civil life, but no minority group should be allowed to impose their views on the majority.

In order to bring this view into our public life, I propose that Australian parliamentary sessions be opened not with a "Christian" prayer but with a two minute silence for private prayer when members of parliament may, if they so choose, make their private entreaties to whichever god they believe in and in accordance with the rites of whichever sect they belong to. Those who do not subscribe to any "religion" may simply meditate about their responsibilities to their constituents.

Created: 2/09/05 and last revised 11/9/06
Author: Robin Chalmers Copyright in all the material on this site is asserted by the author
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