Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century
- an Atheist Nexus submission to the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
To link from the Atheist Nexus menu bar, click "About Us" then "Member Articles and Research"
In 2008, the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) called for public submissions on the topic, “Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century”. The aim of the project was to guide governments in policy making decisions concerning religious issues, and inform faith communities, NGOs and other organisations about Australians’ attitudes towards religion.
Some of the many issues covered in the discussion paper included: faith-based charity and welfare services; the separation of church and state; religious education; religion and gender equality; religion and sexual identity; religion and the environment; and the role of the internet in promoting particular religious beliefs and philosophical views.
As Australia is a highly secular nation, we thought that it was vital that the secular/non-religious/atheist viewpoint should be comprehensively represented. Accordingly, Australian members of Atheist Nexus set up a group to brainstorm ideas for inclusion in a submission. While this was a group effort, Kristy Vensson (aka Chrys Stevenson) took on the role of principle researcher and writer. Chrys wrote in close consultation with Atheist Nexus members: The Irreverent Mr Black, FunkQ, Emeritus Professor Robert A M Gregson, Sean the Blogonaut and Ken Cooke.
The resulting document, submitted to the HREOC in February 2009, is lengthy, but, we hope, entertaining and easy to read. If you don't want to tackle it all - try searching for the subjects you're interested in: homosexuals, environment, fraud, separation of church and state, atheist websites, education, religious instruction, children and internet filters are just some of the many subjects covered.
Given the fact that the HREOC was swamped with over 2000 submissions (many of them from churches and members of the religious right) we feel justified in our decision to make it as comprehensive as possible. This was the first major political project for Atheist Nexus and we hope it will be the first of many attempts by our membership to put our views forward into forums that have the potential to effect real change.
Here are some of the comments we've received so far:
Narelle S, BA (Hons I) in Comparative Religion: "Just finished reading your HREOC Submission ... It is simply magnificent. Words of congratulations just seem so paltry in comparison. Not a thing has been left unsaid or unexamined ... Somehow or other it must be made public; it should be mandatory reading for everyone. It is just so clear and concise, rational and reasonable, but at the same time your passion for the injustice of the current laws is palpable all the way through ...
Extremely well done, and thanks for the privilege of being able to read it."
Professor Peter B: "I have been able to get a copy of your excellent submission to the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission and I have only just completed reading it. I wanted to contact you and congratulate you on the quality, erudition, research, objectivity and the exemplary effort that has led to this submission. I found it riveting and convincing – and I was a fairly well read atheist prior to getting your report! ...
We can only hope that it will have some influence and lead to much needed and warranted change. I am sure that it will remain a definitive reference on matters relating to the inequitable and unjust role and influence of religion/mythologies in contemporary Australia."
From Peter T (on the section on homosexuality): "I am gobsmacked! I've just read it right through and consider it to be the best and most comprehensive essay on this topic I've ever read or am ever likely to read. Congratulations and thanks!!! ... I can't stop grinning with pleasure."
Davo (AN member and Atheist Blogger): "It's a great read ... very impressed, thanks so much to all for the efforts!! "
Max: "Thank you, thank you! I read the draft submission and felt humbled by the depth and quality of the work in progress. I look forward to reading the completed work."
Obviously, we're delighted with the response we're receiving to it!
We'd love to hear what you think of it!
Please feel free to link to it from your website or blog.