Manifesto for a secular Australia

4 February 2013

After workshops involving secular associations, including Humanist Society of Victoria, the following statement was agreed and published.

1 HSV and its allies support a secular, pluralistic and democratic Australia. Government policies should be based on evidence, reason and compassion, and protect the human rights of all Australians. Everyone should be free to choose and hold their own religious or non-religious world-views, provided they do not impose such views on others, and provided practices associated with such world-views do no harm.
Parliaments and Government
2 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
3 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 recognized.There should be mandatory reporting by religious functionaries of actual or suspected child abuse.
4 Religious organizations must be subject to the same laws as other organizations. The ‘advancement of religion’ should be removed from the statutory definition of charity, and religious organizations should not enjoy automatic tax-exempt status. Religious organizations should be subject to anti-discrimination laws in employment and service provision.Government funding to religious organizations such as schools and hospitals should be subject to rigorous accountability to ensure compliance with anti-discrimination laws and the absence of proselytizing.
5 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 world-views, 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
6 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.
7 There must be freedom of reproductive choice, with no religious interference. Termination of pregnancy should be decriminalized 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.
8 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 world-views.Private hospitals must not refuse emergency treatment on the basis of religious world-views.
9 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 world-views of their parents. No organization, whether religious or not, should be allowed to restrict children’s education or to isolate them within closed communities.
Dying with Dignity
10 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 decriminalized.Governments should fund non-religious palliative care services.

Stephen Stuart

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10 Responses to Manifesto for a secular Australia

  1. Muslim says:

    Useful information. Fortunate me I discovered your web site unintentionally, and I am surprised why this twist of fate did not came about earlier! I bookmarked it.|

  2. Greg Plier says:

    The Secular Party of Australia endorses and supports the above manifesto by the Humanist Society of Victoria.

    Greg Plier.
    National Excecutive Victorian Delegate
    Secular Party of Australia

  3. Denis says:

    I note the comment about “already agreed”. If / when being reviewed, can i suggest consideration for a strengthening of (5), to the effect that religion may not be taught as science ?

    Yes it is already implicit (e.g. 1).

  4. Moira Clarke says:

    This is very good, and thank you all for your efforts.

    I am a little concerned, however, as to why there is no mention of free speech in your manifesto. I would consider the safeguarding of freedom of expression to be vital for any liberal, secular democracy.

    • SNS says:

      Freedom of expression was considered briefly and left out of the document as being something we might take for granted. Point 1 deals with freedom of religion which is particularly germane to secularism. Indeed the secular principle of government is the guarantee of religious freedom.
      – Stephen Stuart

  5. Les says:

    Suggest the first clause should be modified.

    Everyone should be free to choose and hold their own religious or non-religious world-views, provided they do not impose such views on others, and provided practices associated with such world-views do no harm.
    Delete the words ‘no harm’ and insert the following – “do not in any way contravene basic human rights.”

    • SNS says:

      Thanks for the comment, Les. ‘Harm’ is more general than ‘contravening human rights’. The document has been agreed among a number of secularists and Skeptics, and modifying it would require them all to reconsider it. From the Humanist point of view, the principles of human rights have higher priority than secularism, but this is a statement of secular principles only.
      Stephen Stuart

      • Les says:


        Thanks for your response.

        My concern was in fact with the very generalness (broadness) of the word ‘harm. Certain religious requirements may be seen as harmful by some and not by others (those requiring such requirements to be met). However these requirement may, in fact, contravene human rights and could therefore be legitimately argued against on very strong grounds. No such strength of argument applies with the use of ‘harm.


  6. Tim Saclier says:

    First rate. (I suppose your inclusion of EMERGENCY treatment under private hospitals was deliberate and has a legal reason.)

    Next thing, how best to publicize it. The bowing to the god-deluded is getting out of hand.

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