Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Mar 12, 2013 in Law, Politics | 17 comments

Rationalist Society manifesto for a secular Australia

The Rationalist Society of Australia is launching its own manifesto for a secular Australia. I can get behind most of this, perhaps all of it. I also think that it would translate pretty well to other countries. Please feel free to offer your own plans for a truly secular country, applicable to where you live, or applicable generally.

Would I have written exactly the same manifesto? Maybe not, as I have priorities that are not included here, perhaps because they go a step further and rely on political principles that I am committed to, such as freedom of speech, and so there are some reforms that I’d give a higher priority than some of these. But these are not a bad start. Kudos to the Rationalist Society.

Here is the manifesto:

Parliaments and Government

There must be clear separation between religion and the State.

• All Australian constitutions should be reformed to ensure clear separation between religion and the State, and all references to God removed.

• Parliamentary prayers and religious references in statutory oaths should be removed.

• No laws made by parliaments nor decisions of executive government should privilege or promote religion.

The Law

There must be ‘one law for all’, with no recognition of parallel legal systems.

• Religious institutions should not be permitted to exempt themselves from the law of the land. Canon law must not take precedence over Australian law.

• Sharia courts should not be officially recognised.

• There should be mandatory reporting of serious crimes by all professionals, including religious functionaries.

Religious organisations must be subject to the same laws as other organisations.

• The ‘advancement of religion’ should be removed from the statutory definition of charity, and religious organisations should not enjoy automatic tax exempt status.

• Religious organisations should be subject to anti-discrimination laws in employment and service provision.

• Government funding to religious organisations such as schools and hospitals should be subject to rigorous accountability to ensure compliance with anti-discrimination laws and the absence of proselytising.


Education must be strictly secular, not promoting any particular religion.

• National and state curricula should include the study of a range of religious and non-religious worldviews, taught by professionally trained teachers.

• Government resources should not be used to support particular religious views, programs of religious instruction, or the employment of religious functionaries in educational settings.

Sex and Sexuality

There must be no discrimination on the basis of a person’s sex, sexuality or gender identity.

• Australian governments should not impose a religious bias on the definition of marriage, or on the right to adopt.

There must be freedom of reproductive choice, with no religious interference.

• Termination of pregnancy should be decriminalised in all States and Territories.

• Governments should make access to evidence-based sexual and reproductive health information and healthcare services universally available.

• Age-appropriate sex and relationships education should be included in national and state curricula.


Healthcare must be available to all regardless of the religious views of the provider.

• Public hospitals must not be allowed to restrict treatment on the basis of religious worldviews.

• Private hospitals must not refuse emergency treatment on the basis of religious worldviews.


Children must not suffer because of the religious views of their parents.

• Decisions about children’s healthcare should be based on evidence-based medicine, not the religious worldviews of their parents.

• No organisation, whether religious or not, should be allowed to restrict children’s education or to isolate them within closed communities.

Dying with Dignity

When facing the end of life, everyone must be guaranteed control over their own bodies, free from religious interference.

• ‘Advance directives’ should be given legal force.

• Physician-assisted suicide, with appropriate safeguards, should be decriminalised.

• Governments should fund non-religious palliative care services.

  • jjramsey

    I think that “casino en ligne francais bonus sans depot” bit is spam from someone who hacked the Rationalist Society of Australia site.

  • RussellBlackford

    Oops, didn’t see that there. Weird. Anyway, thanks – and deleted.

  • RussellBlackford

    One thing that you might want to consider is whether secular people should have any other priorities in addition to these, or perhaps as alternatives. I’m sure this will come at the relevant gigs I’m booked for in the near future (one at Macquarie University next week, the other at the Newcastle Writers Festival a couple of weeks later).

  • jjramsey

    I would have just notified the Rationalist Society of Australia (or its webmaster), but I couldn’t find any contact info. I wonder if you’d have better luck.

  • keddaw

    Should people with a sexual predilection for children not be discriminated against? At least have their employment opportunities curtailed?

    What is the definition of harm? Dawkins seems to think teaching children about hell and who goes there is child abuse, should children be removed from houses that preach a traditional Christian worldview?

    Why is healthcare on that? Why is healthcare there and not food, shelter or clean water? Why can’t private hospitals do what they want? Why is the state getting involved in private institutions that are not actively harming people?

    “One law for all”? I guess that’s legally binding arbitration right out the window then.

    No, way too many problems here to even begin to agree with it.

  • ‘Should people with a sexual predilection for children not be discriminated against? At least have their employment opportunities curtailed?’

    I’m not sure that they should, really. People can have sexual predilections without ever acting upon them, or even posing any serious danger of doing so; I don’t, for instance, think my attraction to intelligent young women makes me a danger to my undergraduate students. Of course, if someone has a history of acting on paedophilic preferences, they may be entirely another matter, but a mere appetite shouldn’t be enough to exclude someone from a job, I don’t think.

  • keddaw

    Because your undergrad students are adults and the power differential is not as large as between a child and their teacher.

    It is also possible for a child to try to seduce an adult (ask the Catholic church…) and if your predilections lie that way you may not see the (obvious/possible) harm that others would and so are much more likely to follow through with what appears to be a mutually consensual and beneficial act/relationship.

    Which isn’t to say bars shouldn’t hire alcoholics or thieves, or that the state needs to get involved, but given the potential harm/legal ramifications I would not hire a pedophile to work in daycare or send my kid to a school that hired people who were sexually attracted to children, ymmv.

  • Whereas the (say) preschool teacher would have both urge and opportunity. Yeah, I can see that. I’m just a bit troubled, though, by the possible conflation of urges and intentions/actions. We all resist urges all the time, and – without other evidence – there’s no reason to suppose most paedophiles can’t/don’t do likewise. There’s no particular reason to assume that someone saddled with those urges would be less ethical, or less able to exercise self-control, than any of the rest of us.

    That said, it’s hard to estimate what the risk would actually be,since we have no idea how many paedophiles there actually are, and hence, what proportion go on to act on their urges.

  • eccles11

    “Why is the state getting involved in private institutions that are not actively harming people?”

    According to the CSIRO, Private hospitals in Australia still to some extent derive revenue from government sources. Also, to act as if this would be some first step of government getting involved in healthcare in Australia is a clear act of ignoring the reality. It’s a regulated industry already, to have a law in which people can not be turned away from treatment on religious grounds is not groundbreaking in any sense.

  • Zardoz

    Based on this argument, pretty much everyone should be banned from holding a driver’s licence because of their predilection to speed. They are much more likely to think it is OK and the consequences (death) are much worse when they occur.

  • keddaw

    It doesn’t matter what is – this is a manifesto, it is about what should be.

    If the government partly funds private health institutions then it can have a say, if the private institution refuses funds they should be able to do what they like as long as they don’t harm anyone.

  • keddaw

    Where to begin with this… Let’s start with reading comprehension: when I say “Which isn’t to say … the state needs to get involved” I am not suggesting legal bars on people with certain sexual preferences from teaching kids, I am simply saying that it might be better for them to avoid such professions, and it would be rational for employers to avoid hiring such people as customers would rationally, or otherwise, avoid sending their kids there.

    Secondly, speeding shouldn’t be a crime. Dangerous driving, which may include excessive speed, should be a crime. People who wish to drive dangerously should have their licenses revoked.

    Lastly, way to avoid democracy. If “pretty much everyone” wants to behave in a given way it sure is refreshing that we have you there to tell “pretty much everyone” that they are wrong and that you will use their money to pay people to enforce your law that they shouldn’t do what “pretty much everyone” wants to do because you think it’s wrong.

  • eccles11

    “Should be” based on libertarian principles.

    I get what you are saying. I get the concept of self-ownership, non-aggression principle, etc. But it seems futile to come in here and complain about one single situation of government intervention in one industry.

    I also get that this is a manifesto and your do get to play idealist with a manifesto, it’s unlikely that these people are libertarians though, nor is it likely that in the event that the manifesto was taken up and implemented, that all the other thousands of bits of legislation that allow government intervention in private industry, including the health sector would be removed, so again, to pick one tiny piece of this situation of government intervention seems futile, like trying to chop a toe nail off of a Hydra.

  • Zardoz

    OK. I apologise if I misunderstood your argument a bit. It would be more like most people should just not apply for a driver’s licence because they know they are likely to speed or that companies should not hire people as drivers if they have been caught for speeding in the past.

    I never said speeding should be a crime but every study out there comfirms that speed is a huge factor in both causing accidents and the seriousness of those accidents so I don’t see how you can speed and not be driving dangerously.

    Lastly, nice strawman. I never argued that this was correct, I said it was a consequence of your argument so you are effectlvely arguing against yourself. I disagree with the entire argument. Although, there are laws against things that most people want to do. Illegal internet downloads, for instance.

  • Is it just me, or is the nesting of these posts getting a bit confusing?

  • RussellBlackford

    Yeah, agree. I just fixed one thing that might make the thread more readable. But any amount of nesting can get confusing after a while.

  • I know, it’s just that I was seeing zardoz’s reply appearing before the post it was replying to…