AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL FOR THE DEFENCE OF GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS
PRESS RELEASE 346
SEPARATION OF RELIGION AND THE STATE:
IS THE DECISION TO FUND CHAPLAINS
IN STATE SCHOOLS A STEP TOO FAR?
28 December 2009
David Marr’s View
of Separation of Church and State in
In an article entitled Politics and Religion: Crossed Paths, in the Sydney Morning Herald December 26-27, David Marr noted that,
although 84% of Australians believe in separation of church and state, the
issue is not the live political issue in this country that it is in the
Nor does he add that to date, the American Supreme
Court was not dominated by members of these churches, although this situation
is also changing in the
Marr describes the Australian situation as follows:
Our High Court long
ago ticked off on public money pouring into church schools, something almost
unthinkable in the
Marr appears to agree with Marion Maddox that Australians don’t have a strong grasp of what separation actually entails. He believes that it seems that large numbers of us are happy with a separation of church and state that allow huge sums of public money to flow to religions.
He does not add that Australians have never been informed on the issues by the media. There was a deliberate blanket on the DOGS case over the period 1972 to 1981 and the only time it received coverage was after the DOGS lost the case. This blanket was deliberate. Ray Nilsen, the co-coordinator of the DOGS case was informed by the then editor of The Age that he would not give the State Aid issue or the case any ‘oxygen’. The only way the DOGS received media coverage was to pay for Advertisements in the major newspapers.
Chaplains in State Schools: A Step too Far?
David Marr wonders whether the Howard-Rudd decision to fund chaplains in state schools may be a step too far. Though it has caused some public unease, Rudd delighted the national conference of the Australian Christian Lobby in November by announcing that this Howard government initiative would be extended for another year at a total cost of $208 million. And its life in some form was promised thereafter.
Max Wallace, the author of The Purple Economy: Supernatural Charities, Tax and the State, is the front man behind a plan by the
Humanist Society of
“This funding is for religion. We have them on record. They have compromised themselves completely.”
DOGS Position on
DOGS are not anti-religion. Many of their members are practising Christians. But they are Christians who believe that entanglement of religion and the state is bad for religion and bad for the state. The DOGS case proved them correct.
They are against the funding of chaplains in State schools because State schools should be accessible to all children with offence to none. If parents want their children to receive instruction in their particular beliefs this is catered for in separate denominational classes. The problem has been that religious pastors have failed in this regard. Now those with theological training want the state to pay them. They cannot make their living from the voluntary giving from their flock. So what kind of pastors are they?
State schools require guidance officers and counsellors, not sectarian chaplains.
Section 116 of the Australian Constitution
Australians need to be informed about the proper interpretation of Section 116. The separation of religion and the State was enshrined in our Constitution by the Founding Fathers. They knew what it meant. So did Justice Murphy in his dissenting judgement.
The decision to fund State school chaplains is more than a step too far.
DOGS refer readers to his statement that:
23. The establishment clause was explained by Jefferson in the famous Danbury letter (to a group of Danbury Baptists): "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, - I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore man to all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties."
The co-author of the establishment clause, James Madison, in explaining his veto to a bill of Congress, stated it was:
"Because the bill in reserving a certain parcel of land of the United States for the use of the said Baptist Church comprises a principle and a precedent for the appropriation of funds of the United States for the use and support of religious societies, contrary to the article of the Constitution which declares that 'Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment.'"
(J.D. Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents (1900)). The Annotated United States Constitution states " . . . the theme of the writings of both (Madison and Jefferson) was that it was wrong to offer public support of any religion in particular or of religion in general" 3rd ed. (1971), p. 912.
24. This interpretation of the establishment clause was well
settled and accepted judicially in the
"Before the adoption of the Constitution, attempts were made in some of the colonies and States to legislate not only in respect to the establishment of religion, but in respect to its doctrines and precepts as well. The people were taxed, against their will, for the support of religion, and sometimes for the support of particular sects to whose tenets they could not and did not subscribe."
The judgment later quoted the above passage from the
"Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured."
25. Thus, an authoritative interpretation of the
establishment clause had been given by the supreme tribunal in the
"The first amendment to the Constitution, in declaring that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or forbidding the free exercise thereof, was intended . . . to prohibit legislation for the support of any religious tenets or the modes or worship of any sect."
35. In D'Emden v. Pedder  HCA 1; (1904) 1 CLR 91, at pp 112-113 Griffith C.J., one of the framers of our Constitution said:
"So far, therefore, as the United States Constitution
and the Constitution of the Commonwealth are similar, the construction put upon
the former by the Supreme Court of the
There is, indeed, another condideration which gives
additional weight to the authority of the
36. In Amalgamated Society of Engineers v. Adelaide Steamship Co. Ltd.  HCA 54; (1920) 28 CLR 129, at p 146 the Court held that the United States decisions were not standards to measure the respective rights of the Commonwealth and the States, because of "common sovereignty of all parts of the British Empire" and "the principle of responsible government". Those considerations are not present here, and we are not concerned with the respective rights of the Commonwealth and the States. (at p631)
37. Latham C.J. in
"There is, therefore, full legal justification for adopting in Australia an interpretation of s. 116 which had, before the enactment of the Commonwealth Constitution, already been given to similar words in the United States."
39. The purpose of our establishment clause is the same as
that in the
Section 116 recognizes that an essential condition of religious liberty is that religion be unaided by the Commonwealth.
The dissenting judgements of Justice Murphy have again and again been followed in later cases. It is time that Australians returned to this particular judgement and set the relationship between religion and the State to rights in this country.
Freedom of and from religion does not mean toleration of the intolerant. It means that the State neither helps nor hinders. It means that if a person holds a strong belief, he or she is prepared to put their money where their mouth is.
It is time that Australians were informed about the issues of separation of church and state. DOGS commend David Marr for attempting to have the issue ‘given oxygen’ and hope that the Sydney Morning Herald does not nip it in the bud in the way that The Age did in the 1970s.
DEFEND PUBLIC EDUCATION AND STOP STATE AID TO PRIVATE RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS.
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