1 MAY   2008






Distinctively Different

A comparison of Liberty Victoria (formerly the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties) and both the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the American Civil Liberties Union illustrates an enormous difference between the Australian and North American organisations with respect to religious liberty, support for public education, the separation of Church and State and the opposition to aid to church schools.

 Liberty Victoria

For the purpose of this discussion, we are using Liberty Victoria as representative of the other Civil Liberty organisations in Australia. A reading of the present Liberty Victoria website indicates that there is no support for public education, no support for separation of church and state, and no opposition to aid to church schools. Nor is there any evidence of an understanding of religious liberty.

Since its inception in 1966 there has been no change in this situation. It is interesting to note that DOGS was established in 1964 and publicly launched in 1967. From its inception DOGS is unaware of any financial, physical or moral support from Liberty Victoria in their battle for the right of children to a free, secular  and universal public school system and their fight for the separation of church and state alongside religious liberty. There has never been a glimmer of opposition to aid for church schools and no support for separation of church and state.(DOGS High Court Challenge, Section 116).

Current operators of Liberty Victoria claim lineage back to the 1930s but the only reference DOGS can find regarding State Aid/religious liberty is an article by Brian Fitzpatrick  entitled State Aid, Against', in the Observer, 11 July 1959. By the time the Victorian Civil Liberties was revived in the 1960s, the cancer in the body politic had already set in.

What a Difference in Canada and the USA

A perusal of the content of the websites of the Canadian CCLA  and the American ACLU presents a stark contrast to that of their Australian counterparts with respect to support of religious freedom, opposition to State Aid, support for public education and the separation of Church and State. These groups are not ashamed to publicly declare their support for the above principles.


The Canadian position is advertised in a publicly available statement entitled Fostering a More Tolerant Society. This is a joint Statement with 49 organisations and persons against the funding of religious schools. DOGS quote:

Ontario's schools are among the most diverse, tolerant and respectful of any schools in the world. Our public schools bring children together, regardless of wealth, status, race, religion, and ethnicity. Our public schools bring communities together.

In the Ontario election a proposal has been put forward to publicly fund faith-based schools. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and the undersigned call upon all political parties to reject the proposal to fund religious schools, and to work to strengthen our public education system and to ensure that it continues to reflect the diversity of our communities.

Public funding of religious schools will drain resources from the public system and promote private schools at the expense of public schools. It will fragment and divide our system along religious lines. The sheer costs of funding many religious schools would likely reduce the quality of the entire educational system.

If the funding proposal goes ahead, public schools could lose significant numbers of students to religious schools. If this were to happen, the public schools could no longer hope to perform their role in bringing people together. In time, our community could become a much ledss tolerant place.

Ourt public education system strives to acknowledge, accommodate and celebrate the diversity of faiths in our multicultural society. Our public schools have shown flexibility and creativity in responding to the changing face of our communities, while playing a vital role in integrating many cultures.

We call on political parties and candidates to affirm their commitment to building a strong public education system, and to reject the proposal to fund private religious schools. Together, let's continue to build a public education system that is responsive to the needs of all faiths, cultures and communities, and makes Ontario an example of social tolerance and harmony. 

From their News and Events Page on the CCLA website, readers can also discover the following statements:


The Canadian Civil Liberties Association added nuclear fuel to an already roaring fire in Ontario's recent religious school funding debate. The organisation called for an end to the public funding of Catholic schools.

CCLA, which has long opposed the use of public funds to propagate religious faith, disputed an election proposal to extend such funding to all religious schools in Ontario. The Association garnered a list of high profile individuals to sign a joint coalition statement against this proposal. The statement was published as a full page advertisement in the Toronto Star.

A few days later, CCLA, acting on its own, sent the education minister a brief which outlined not only its objections to the funding of additional religious schools, but also its objections to the current public funding of Catholic schools. Such funding, the organisation argued, could undermine the public schools, which serve an important integrative function in our society.

The media response was overwhelming. CCLA General Counsel Alan Borovoy and freedom of expression Project Director Noa Mendelsohn Aviv were interviewed by numerous newspapers, television and radio programs, and appeared in several live and on-camera debates. This action provoked a storm of controversy.


The ACLU has fearlessly united publicly with many groups at a national and state level on the issue of public education and separation of church and state. DOGS refer readers to The National Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty (PEARL National) and to groups in Florida and Michigan.

The National Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty (PEARL) is a coalition of over fifty grassroots, civil, educational and religious groups committed to maintaining the First Amendment's guarantee of separation of church and state in the public schools of America. National PEARL believes that the maintenance of the wall of separation helps to assure a strong public education system and safeguards religious liberty. National PEARL is committed to keeping the nation's public schools a safe haven for the nation's children, free of religious indoctrination and discrimination.

Some of the fifty groups linked to PEARL are as follows:

  • American Civil Liberties Union

  • American Federation of Teachers

  • American Association of School Administrators

  • American Humanist Association

  • American Jewish Congress

  • Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

  • National Education Association

  • National Parents and Teachers

National Coalition for Public Education

This organisation wrote a letter to the US Senate opposing continued funding of the private school voucher program for the district of Columbia. They opposed the diversion of scarce public funds to private and parochial schools.  They also opposed vouchers because this program could require taxpayer support of instruction in religions contrary to their own.

There were over thirty organisations attached to this coalition and one of them was the American Civil Liberties Union.

Florida Coalition

In 2005 a broad coalition of groups in Florida including the Florida Congress of Parents and Teachers, ( Florida PTA), Florida Education Association , the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, the Florida NAACP , People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Congress has been challenging the Florida voucher scheme since its inception.

 The ACLU argued that because many of the participating schools are church run schools, the voucher program has unconstitutionally transferred taxpayers' money to religious institutions ( 137 year old constitutional provision specifically barring aid to religious institutions). These groups were also opposed to the state diverting much needed tax dollars from neighbourhood public schools to private, mostly church run schools.

Council of Organisations and Others for Education about Parochiaid (CAP) Michigan.

CAP is organised to provide education on the following subjects: the preservation of religious liberty; the separation of church and state; the importance of public education in democracy.

The Council also educates the public regarding the risks of granting government aid to non-public schools in Michigan.

CAP was founded in the 1970s when a coalition of civil rights, education, religious and civic organisations joined with other individuals to educate the public regarding a voucher proposal. When this issue was soundly defeated, the organisation remained together. Years later, CAP played a seminal role in the public education effort that was responsible for defeating the voucher proposal on the 2000 ballot. Amongst the 26 groups was the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Federation of Teachers, Michigan, and more than twenty other organisations.


We urge our readers to consider why there is such a fundamental difference between the beliefs and actions of Australian and North American civil liberties organisations. In particular we point to the USA situation which has both a background in public education and the separation of church and state.

Why is there such a difference between the North American and the Australian bodies in fighting for public education, opposing State Aid, promoting the separation of church and state and religious freedom? DOGS attribute the difference to the cancer in the Body Politic, namely the Church School faction which, since the 1950s has destroyed so many parts of the body politic.

The roar of silence from the Australian  civil liberties organisations is just another example of this.




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Last modified:Thursday, 01 May 2008