Way back in 2008, the Australian Human Rights Commission called for submissions on the topic of “Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century”. Knowing they would be beseiged by submissions from theists, a group of Australians from Atheist Nexus decided to pool resources and write a submission from the atheist perspective. With a lot of help from others*, I was the chief researcher and writer for the submission. The result was the:
It seems to me that now is a good time to ‘resurrect’ it. The Australian Christian Lobby is still working hard to demean and limit the freedoms of its fellow Australians. Hillsong Church has been caught up in another alleged charity scam. The Australian government continues its unholy alliance with religion through projects like the National School Chaplaincy Program, and, of course, our welfare sector has been largely farmed out to religious organisations which are permitted to discriminate based on religion – on the basis of ‘freedom of religion and belief’.
So, I’m posting the link to the Atheist Nexus submission on Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century here. A warning – it’s long, and a tad outdated, but it’s easy to read and, I think, still very relevant.
Readers may be interested to note the approach adopted in the submission. Instead of quoting from Dawkins, Harris et al, we tried, wherever possible, to support our arguments with quotations from theists and academics. Our aim was to show that the views expressed in the document are not just those of a rabble of militant atheists. Instead, they are views held widely throughout the community.
My one regret with the submission is that, at the time, I did not recognize the importance of the new National School Chaplaincy Program, and so it is not mentioned. That was a major oversight which I am happy to acknowledge.
The submission took three months, full time work, to research and write. For me, it was worth the effort, because it gave me a solid foundation for the activism I involve myself in today. But, as a project, was it worthwhile? Probably not. I wrote about this on Online Opinion some time ago: If Freedom of Religion is the Question, Secularism is the Answer.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
The Atheist Nexus submission was written in consultation with:
E Black (aka The Irreverent Mr Black)
Emeritus Professor Robert Gregson BSc (Eng), BSc, PhD (London), DSc(ANU),
CPsychol, FASSA, FAPsS, FBPsS, FNZPsS, FSS
Sean Broughton-Wright BA, Grad. Dip. Ed. (Mercy Ministries Data)
Dr Kenneth M Cooke MBBS, MBiomedEng, FRANZCR (Statistical Data)