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  1. #1
    CC International Master Goughfather's Avatar
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    (split from E of G thread - KB)

    What I meant is that my support for what I see as full seperation of church and state is not affected by any arguments concerning the past history of such ideas. I threw that in in anticipation of Goughfather jumping in with his usual line on that question. I like to save people effort.
    The number of non-sequiters and strawperson arguments in this thread convinces me that responding to the primary question at hand is not worth the effort. The question of "separation of Church and State" is however, something that I am very much interested in. Perhaps Kevin, it may be expedient to move this subject to a new thread so as to avoid a meaningful argument being diluted with the trailer park scholarship we see above.

    From what I remember about our past conversations about the separation of Church and State, we agree about the principle at stake, but disagree upon the ramifications of such a concept. In my argument I referred to Section 116 of the Australian Constitution and the ruling in Ex rel Black v Commonwealth (1981) 146 CLR 559, also known as the "DOGS Case". My argument, rightly or wrongly, was based upon legal considerations. Your argument, rightly or wrongly adopted a more pragmatic perspective, independent of the legal principles of separation of Church and State.

    Perhaps I should reiterate that as a Baptist, I firmly believe in a Church and State that is clearly demarcated. Personally, I have profound problems with Fred Nile's "Christian Democratic Party" and will not even deliver my preferences to the CDP in principle. I feel the CDP merges Church and State far too closely, undermining both parties in the process.

    Finally, remember that the principle of separation of Church and State works both ways. The State is protected from theocracy, but at the same time, the government cannot thrust itself upon the affairs of the Church. The purpose therein is that people may freely exercise their religion, or lack of religion. This does not protect people from any public discourse of any particular religion, or religion in general.
    Last edited by Kevin Bonham; 26-08-2004 at 01:33 AM.
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  2. #2
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    This is quite topical at the moment as the NSW Teachers Federation today announced a new constitutional challenge to private school funding based around claims of government funding being used specifically for religious instruction. It has given Mark Latham an enormous headache as this is a potential wedge issue for Howard, and Latham seemed most irritated by it on the news tonight. Would be very interested in your comments about this case and whether it has any hope.

    Quote Originally Posted by Goughfather
    From what I remember about our past conversations about the separation of Church and State, we agree about the principle at stake, but disagree upon the ramifications of such a concept. In my argument I referred to Section 116 of the Australian Constitution and the ruling in Ex rel Black v Commonwealth (1981) 146 CLR 559, also known as the "DOGS Case". My argument, rightly or wrongly, was based upon legal considerations. Your argument, rightly or wrongly adopted a more pragmatic perspective, independent of the legal principles of separation of Church and State.
    That's right. Coming from a political/philosophical background, my approach is to try to work out what I would like the law to be, and then deal with the question of how you get there later. At times this means that what I support could - in practice - require a constitutional amendment at least, for the sake of only a fairly minor change compared to existing practice.

    I think my position last time was that I supported government funding to private schools only on the condition that they did not have compulsory religious instruction/observance (incl. creationism outside comparative religious studies), irrespective of who that instruction/observance was funded by. As we've discussed previously, this is a fair bit more radical than what is in s.116, esp. as interpreted in the case you mention. (For those curious, no, it has nothing to do with dogs - I've done a bit of crash reading on this.)

    Perhaps I should reiterate that as a Baptist, I firmly believe in a Church and State that is clearly demarcated. Personally, I have profound problems with Fred Nile's "Christian Democratic Party" and will not even deliver my preferences to the CDP in principle. I feel the CDP merges Church and State far too closely, undermining both parties in the process.
    I imagine that if some of the most extreme atheist groups ever formed political parties I would be concerned about them doing the same thing in reverse and take a similar attitude ... in part because the same kind of attitude far too easily spreads to other subject matters once it is adopted once. However, atheists who go as far in the opposite direction as Nile or even Howard go in theirs are quite uncommon creatures.

    Finally, remember that the principle of separation of Church and State works both ways. The State is protected from theocracy, but at the same time, the government cannot thrust itself upon the affairs of the Church. The purpose therein is that people may freely exercise their religion, or lack of religion. This does not protect people from any public discourse of any particular religion, or religion in general.
    In general I agree with this - cases where it gets tricky involve strange far-right "religions" that try to pass off hate speech or accumulation of weapons as part of their faith. I actually prefer ridicule to legislation as a method for dealing with the former but it is not quite so easy to laugh at a gun. Religions need to stay within the secular law if they want the state to leave them alone. (All sounds very simple in principle but when you get into anti-discrimination law - a field my partner has worked in - it becomes a lot messier).
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  3. #3
    CC International Master Cat's Avatar
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    The Church should mind its business, Australia is doing very well as it is! The current governors of our State, that is Kerry Packer, Rupert Murdoch, Pfizer, major Multi-National Corporate interest , the Military and the Mafia are all tried and trusted, and we can be sure they are acting in the National Interest. And how could we doubt the credentials of our beloved leader, George Bush, or that our government at the Pentagon have anything but our National Security at heart?

    What we have is democracy, and we don't want any two-bit do good good-doers interfering with the well-oiled wheels of our State. If I have any criticism than perhaps we have too many tears of Government. Lets get rid of State and Federal Government and run everything from the Pentagon. Oh, I forgot, we're already doing that, that's what the FTA's for, silly me!
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  4. #4
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    I have said this before, and I will repeat. I believe in absolute seperation of Church from the state. Just like an athiest has no place in a church, a christian has no place in being part of government. This means I don't think that John Howard who claims to be a Christian I think should be in government. I also think that parties like Fred Niles and the Family First party that is growing from SA are doing the wrong thing.

    For those who don't no the Family First party started in SA before the last state election and won an upper house seat. The member is (former?) Pastor Andrew Evans of the Paradise Community Church which is an Assemblies of God church and the church Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian attends. Andrew Evan's son is now head pastor of the church. They will be running candidates in 60 lower house seats and Senate candidates in all states. They are given a reasonable change of claiming the last Senate seat here in SA. The recently being the first Australian polictical party to elect an aboriginal as leader. She, I can't remember her name, was quoted in this mornings paper as saying that is was a coincidence that all of their candidates have religious backgrounds.

    Scott

  5. #5
    CC Grandmaster arosar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScottColliver
    I have said this before, and I will repeat. I believe in absolute seperation of Church from the state.
    Good, but . . .

    Quote Originally Posted by ScottColliver
    Just like an athiest has no place in a church, a christian has no place in being part of government.
    This is not necessary. There's no reason why an elected christian or some other religionist couldn't be secular in discharging his public duties. Anyway, your idea is impractical as we would effectively discriminate against large sections of the citizenry.

    Yet I agree, "parties" with a manifestly religious platform should not be permitted. They cannot possibly serve the wider good.

    AR

  6. #6
    CC International Master Goughfather's Avatar
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    This is quite topical at the moment as the NSW Teachers Federation today announced a new constitutional challenge to private school funding based around claims of government funding being used specifically for religious instruction. It has given Mark Latham an enormous headache as this is a potential wedge issue for Howard, and Latham seemed most irritated by it on the news tonight. Would be very interested in your comments about this case and whether it has any hope.
    This is particularly interesting, considering the recent emphasis on "values" (whatever that might mean) in education. Not surprising, however, considering that the NSW Teachers Federation is your archetypal leftist movement. As you say, it seems like an issue that Howard could and will use as a wedge issue, painting the picture of an elitist movement at odds with what he considers (for the sake of expedience) to be "mainstream Australia". Indeed, this challenge seems to be no different to the original DOGS case. While the High Court has the power to reverse their own precedent, they would do so at their own peril. Furthermore, the High Court is currently stacked with conservative judges.

    I imagine that if some of the most extreme atheist groups ever formed political parties I would be concerned about them doing the same thing in reverse and take a similar attitude ... in part because the same kind of attitude far too easily spreads to other subject matters once it is adopted once. However, atheists who go as far in the opposite direction as Nile or even Howard go in theirs are quite uncommon creatures.
    Indeed, as you suggest, the restriction of certain religious practice, a la France would contravene Section 116 of the Australian Constitution. I know that there was a Christian group entitled "Saltshakers", who were concerned that recent changes to Victorian State legislation posed a threat to the right of Christians (or those of other religious faiths) to openly speak about religion in the workplace. I'm not sure how real this threat was, but it's something well worth investigating.

    I know it sounds obvious, but Nile and Howard are much different politicians. Nile appeals to a limited, but sizable constituency, alienating himself from the majority in the process. Howard more often than not plays the role of popularist, alienating only those groups which are not worth capturing as a constituency i.e. refugees, intellectuals, environmentalists, etc. Howard is much too politically astute to tow the line of a particular religion, opting instead to talk about such vaguaries as "traditional family values" and the like. Ironically, it is the crudeness of such thinking that provides the appeal to "ordinary Australian", who despise anything the least bit "intellectual".

    In general I agree with this - cases where it gets tricky involve strange far-right "religions" that try to pass off hate speech or accumulation of weapons as part of their faith. I actually prefer ridicule to legislation as a method for dealing with the former but it is not quite so easy to laugh at a gun. Religions need to stay within the secular law if they want the state to leave them alone. (All sounds very simple in principle but when you get into anti-discrimination law - a field my partner has worked in - it becomes a lot messier).
    Obviously, as you recognise, the issue of free speech is incredibly complicated. It is the constitutionally entrenched right of free speech in the US that gives groups like the KKK relative impunity. (Meanwhile, non-citizens such as David Hicks and Mohammad Habib do not enjoy such freedoms.) The is always a delicate balance between the freedom of the individual and the intervention of the state to be maintained. Too far in one direction and you have fascism. Too far in the other and you have anarchy. Note also the social contract theory espoused by such thinkers as Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau who maintain that by choosing to enter into a society and being protected by the legal institution therein, one chooses to forego certain individual liberties.

    The crux of contemporary liberalism as espoused by John-Stuart Mill recognises the right of the individual to act as he or she wishes regardless of the morality of the action, insofar as the individual does not infringe upon the rights of other individuals within the state. However, as Mill stated, an individual who has been offended by something that someone has said has not been deprived of his or her rights. Where does an "offensive statement" become a statement which should be regarded as criminal? I don't know where to draw the line, but perhaps you have some kind of governing guideline?

    Regards,
    Goughfather
    "People with guns don't understand. That's why they get guns. Too many misunderstandings." - Jerry Seinfeld, The Little Kicks

  7. #7
    CC International Master Goughfather's Avatar
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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ScottColliver
    Just like an athiest has no place in a church, a christian has no place in being part of government.
    This is not necessary. There's no reason why an elected christian or some other religionist couldn't be secular in discharging his public duties. Anyway, your idea is impractical as we would effectively discriminate against large sections of the citizenry.

    Yet I agree, "parties" with a manifestly religious platform should not be permitted. They cannot possibly serve the wider good.
    Well said, Amiel. In fact, to insist otherwise, as Scott does, is to directly contravene Section 116 of the Australian Constitution, which insists upon no religious test being implemented for public office. Religious belief, or lack of religious belief are to have no bearing upon one's credentials for public office. If you think about it, 100% of parliamentarians hold theistic, atheistic or agnostic stances!

    Just on a tangent, what exactly do you mean when you say that an atheist should have no place within a church, Scott? Considering the judgmental attitudes that I often see towards non-Christians, I can understand why a non-Christian would want to have nothing to do with church. But shouldn't the church be an open, inclusive environment where all are welcome, regardless of race, colour or creed?
    "People with guns don't understand. That's why they get guns. Too many misunderstandings." - Jerry Seinfeld, The Little Kicks

  8. #8
    Account Shoutbox Banned antichrist's Avatar
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    KB: I imagine that if some of the most extreme atheist groups ever formed political parties I would be concerned about them doing the same thing in reverse and take a similar attitude ... in part because the same kind of attitude far too easily spreads to other subject matters once it is adopted once. However, atheists who go as far in the opposite direction as Nile or even Howard go in theirs are quite uncommon creatures.

    Reply
    You are right but I can't help having a gloat when I see the cathedrals in Russia that were turned into museums against religion in Stalin's day. But the wheel has turned again.

    When the Seventh Day Adventists were barred during WW11 due to their anti-conscription or pacifist stance, the only atheist group and a strong one at that, The Rationalist Assoc of NSW, let them use their premises for free as the exec. thought freedom of thought was more important. I think their premises were confiscated. The world turned upside downl -- the Bible was right after all.

  9. #9
    Account Shoutbox Banned antichrist's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=ScottColliver]I have said this before, and I will repeat. I believe in absolute seperation of Church from the state. Just like an athiest has no place in a church, a christian has no place in being part of government.

    Reply:
    Churches are full of atheists. Even many priests and ministers are atheists, only if they left they would not have a job, having no trade skills. There was a Monsenior(?) known as Jean Mesler (?) in France during the Inquisition days. He wrote a famous book against religion called (my ruddy memory) ...help me out KB.. "Supertition through the Ages" or something like that, a brilliant book. He hid one copy under his floor and left another copy with his good friend, the mayor. After is death the mayor had it published. He would have been put to death if released in his lifetime. It is still been published now, about 300 years after the event.

    I met a young modern Catholic priest in the Philippines who was a great fan of Neitzsche, we had great conversations. I reakon he was close to been an atheist.

  10. #10
    CC International Master Cat's Avatar
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    Christianity is so emmeshed within our social fabric it will be some time before the Church and State completely separate and I say its a good thing too! Put it this way, it is inconcievable that an openly non-Christian politician could be elected as leader of any of the English speaking Western democracies. In some situations they may only be paying lip-service, attending religious memorials, etc - in others like Blair or Bush they are enthusiatically and madly Christian. We'll have a black, homo-sexual woman in the Whitehouse before we have a non-Christian president.

    I don't know what Lathams personal views are, but he will be the dutiful Christian in public if he's elected. As I say, Christianity is our cultural logo and most of us wouldn't want it any other way.
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  11. #11
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goughfather
    Indeed, this challenge seems to be no different to the original DOGS case.
    I found the press release here and it looks more like a stunt or idle threat at this stage. Not a firm challenge but a statement that one would be investigated.

    I know that there was a Christian group entitled "Saltshakers", who were concerned that recent changes to Victorian State legislation posed a threat to the right of Christians (or those of other religious faiths) to openly speak about religion in the workplace. I'm not sure how real this threat was, but it's something well worth investigating.
    Saltshakers were concerned about what became the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001.

    The sections as passed read along these lines:

    A person must not, on the ground of the religious belief of another person or class of persons, engage in conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, that other person or class of persons.

    (That's 8(1), there are similar wordings in the severe offence section).

    There are exceptions including for conduct (incl. statement, discussion, publication or debate) engaged in reasonably and in good faith for "any genuine academic, artistic, scientific or religious purpose".

    (The Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act 1998, which I'm very familiar with for a range of reasons, omits "revulsion" and also omits "religious" from the list of exception purposes above. There have been suggestions some very extreme evangelists here risk prosecution, but no actual prosecutions over such an issue.)

    According to Saltshakers, “seriously offend, insult or humiliate” was originally included in the mix but was removed.

    (NB This is not relevant to the merits of their arguments but in my own dealings with Saltshakers, I've found them to be quite extreme and ranty, and quite weak at arguing their case. Most of those dealings have been with one Peter Stokes, mostly on Tasmanian gay rights issues.)

    I know it sounds obvious, but Nile and Howard are much different politicians.
    Agreed.

    Howard is much too politically astute to tow the line of a particular religion, opting instead to talk about such vaguaries as "traditional family values" and the like. Ironically, it is the crudeness of such thinking that provides the appeal to "ordinary Australian", who despise anything the least bit "intellectual".
    Agreed; I also think he aims to subtly shape the way that "ordinary Australians" view their own political identity, and steer it in a direction that is easier for him to pitch to.

    Note also the social contract theory espoused by such thinkers as Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau who maintain that by choosing to enter into a society and being protected by the legal institution therein, one chooses to forego certain individual liberties.
    This is a bit of a tangent but I am not a big fan of social-contract approaches to anything in political thought. Among their weaknesses:

    * The notion that one chooses to enter a society is empirically false. One is born in a specific society complete with nationality restrictions.
    * Because I'm not an objective moralist, I don't see how the social-contracter can hope to convince a freeloader not to freeload, except through violence (which because of the above, can't even be justified by reference to breach of contract - no contract ever existed.)
    * Where attempts are made to flesh out exactly what the social contract should be, they are arbitrary at best, and often prone to all kinds of objections. Rawls' "veil of ignorance" is a good example of this - full of weak assumptions.

    In terms of free speech I see it as simply a fact that within a fairly pluralist society, there are many restrictions on free speech that different groups support for different reasons. Many people agree with a relatively open approach and the idea of consistency of application, so I usually try to steer the debate in that sort of direction.

    However, as Mill stated, an individual who has been offended by something that someone has said has not been deprived of his or her rights.
    Yes. This is an extremely important point, especially when so many on either side of debates like this are prone to believe that strong criticism of their view is somehow a violation of their "right to an opinion". I notice that kind of fallacy a lot in religious debates.

    Where does an "offensive statement" become a statement which should be regarded as criminal? I don't know where to draw the line, but perhaps you have some kind of governing guideline?
    I also find this an extremely difficult question, especially because I am very wary of going too far in the "ban it" direction. I definitely think incitement to violence should be out (hardly a controversial position); beyond that I don't really have firm and final views.
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  12. #12
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David_Richards
    Put it this way, it is inconcievable that an openly non-Christian politician could be elected as leader of any of the English speaking Western democracies.
    Bob Hawke was openly "agnostic" (though I think this really meant "undecided"). And Bill Hayden, who could very conceivably have been PM but wasn't because Hawke rolled him, was openly atheist.

    You can attend Christian religious ceremonies for the sake of appearances or respect for your friends who hold those views while being "openly non-Christian".

    We'll have a black, homo-sexual woman in the Whitehouse before we have a non-Christian president.
    True according to all polling, but among the English-speaking Western democracies, the USA is the only one I can think of that suffers this extreme aversion to electing atheists. In Aus, NZ, UK etc I don't see any reasons why an open atheist could never be elected PM. Typically in these countries there will be some atheists in parliament at any given time, whereas in the US the concept "atheist politician" barely exists.
    Last edited by Kevin Bonham; 27-08-2004 at 02:40 AM.
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  13. #13
    CC International Master Cat's Avatar
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    [QUOTE]
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    \

    You can attend Christian religious ceremonies for the sake of appearances or respect for your friends who hold those views while being "openly non-Christian".
    Sure, but the consequences of non-attendance are very damaging - look what happened to your Govenor. Sure it was Rememberance Day, but
    the gravitas of the occasion was achieved within the context of Christian understanding, culture and ceremony.

    True according to all polling, but among the English-speaking Western democracies, the USA is the only one I can think of that suffers this extreme aversion to electing atheists. In Aus, NZ, UK etc I don't see any reasons why an open atheist could never be elected PM. Typically in these countries there will be some atheists in parliament at any given time, whereas in the US the concept "atheist politician" barely exists.
    Despite the UK seeming to be largely secular, it's institutions have deeply woven connections to the Christian establishment. A Catholic King, for example would not be acceptable. That the PM be a Christian in the UK would be considered an essential requirement, in terms of determining allegiances, loyalties, principles, etc. It would never be accepted there
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  14. #14
    CC Grandmaster arosar's Avatar
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    Hey Goughfather....seems like you're a bit of a constitutional lawyer (you did say you're an LLB, right?) I got a question. Being a foreign-born, am I able to run for PM some day? Or is it like the US where foreign born can't be prez?

    AR

  15. #15
    Reader in Slood Dynamics Rincewind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arosar
    Hey Goughfather....seems like you're a bit of a constitutional lawyer (you did say you're an LLB, right?) I got a question. Being a foreign-born, am I able to run for PM some day? Or is it like the US where foreign born can't be prez?
    I'm no legal eagle but to quote, Shrek. You have the right, Donkey. What you lack, is the capacity.
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