Church/State Debate Reignites
Update, Friday April 8: All week we’ve been talking about the division of religion and state, particularly in relation to education. We ran the original story (below) on Tuesday with a follow-up on Thursday. Today, two more reports of note have added grist to the mill. In the first, The Age reports that the Victorian government has increased funding to Access Ministries, the primary provider of special religious instruction in public schools - the Access Ministries website also publishes this defense of the teaching of Christianity in state education. Secondly, Bob Carr has blogged today on the case for withdrawing funding for school chaplains.
Original story, published Tuesday April 5 The relationship between church and state is a debate that has caused less angst throughout Australia’s history than in many other places, but the issue is still alive and kicking. In the lead up to Easter, it seems that religion is preoccupying the zeitgeist once again. This week’s headlines were dominated by a ban on Easter egg hunts in childcare centres. In Fairfax’s National Times on Monday, education editor Jewel Topsfield argued that religion has no place being taught in state school classrooms. Meanwhile, the Victorian government moved to ban Easter Mass 11, a heavy metal event headlined by Sydney band Jesus Christ scheduled for the Northcote Social Club on Good Friday. The title of Catherine Deveny’s Comedy Festival show God is Bullshit speaks for itself.
British philospoher AC Grayling’s new book, The Good Book: A Secular Bible, sets out the philosophical rationale for an atheism that argues its own case - sometimes called militant atheism by critics. It’s the latest in a line - perhaps an emerging tradition - of British anti-theist writing, which notably includes Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Grayling rejects the pejorative ‘militant atheism’ as paradoxical: “How can you be a militant atheist?” he asks. “It’s like sleeping furiously.”
The Wheeler Centre and the St James Ethics Centre are hosting the next Intelligence Squared debate on Tuesday 24th May at the Melbourne Town Hall. The motion of this debate will be, ‘That public funding of private education is unconscionable.’