Page 572 - Week 02 - Thursday, 14 February 2013

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What the government is proposing here will stifle freedom.

There are some tangible consequences which I am worried about. What will it mean for the prayer or reflection at the start of the day? What will it mean for faith-based groups such as St Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army, World Vision, UnitingCare, Anglicare or others using our Assembly public spaces which would be endorsed by the Speaker? What does it mean for faith-based schools visiting and using the Assembly’s building or the Assembly education office hosting such groups? What does it mean for smoking ceremonies like the one used to welcome a recently elected MLA?

What does it mean for the Assembly hosting or supporting religious events such as Diwali, Ramadan, Christmas parties, carols by candlelight, Christmas trees and others? What does it mean for swearing an oath on the Bible or other books of faith? What does it mean for the Interfaith Forum? And perhaps most tellingly, what does it mean for state funerals which are, by definition, a state endorsing a funeral service? If any of the above are endorsed or affiliated, what does that mean?

I believe the government runs the risk of being discriminatory. This goes beyond the arguments of separation of church and state. This, I believe, runs the risk of being anti faith. As it reads, the government seems to be anti faith and anti religion. I am not. I want to continue to see the separation of church and state but I will defend the role that faith plays in the lives of many in our community and I will support the choice to adhere to religious practices.

It being 45 minutes after the commencement of Assembly business, the debate was interrupted in accordance with standing order 77. Ordered that the time allotted to Assembly business be extended by 30 minutes.

MRS JONES (Molonglo) (10.59): I rise to speak to this motion, in particular on the topic of the separation of church and state. The origin of the particular phrase is generally found in an 1802 letter from President Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. Jefferson was answering their letter to him in which they expressed concern about a rumour they had heard that the Congregationalist denomination was going to be made the official national church. He assured them that it was not. So he wrote the following words:

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 to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

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