Church and State: Australia’s Imaginary Wall (Ch 3)

Tom Frame; University of New South Wales, 2006. 

The following is the product of research being conducted for a paper regarding the Christian role in politics. 

Tom Frame is the Anglican Bishop for the Australian Defence Force. The following is part of a book that looks at the working relationship and tensions between Church and State in Australia. This book is a part of a series that explore, social, political and cultural issues in association with Australian Policy Online.

s116 of the Constitution

Quoting Latham CJ, Jehovah’s Witness Case 1943. 
It served “not only to protect the freedom of religion, but also to protect the right of man to have no religion” and covered “act done in pursuance of religious belief as a part of religion” as well as opinions… the key concern for Chief Justice Latham was whether the interference  was excessive or “undue.”

The Commonwealth and to demonstrate that an infringement of this freedom was “reasonably necessary”. In effect, the court was attempting to balance competing rights and responsibilities.

Quoting the DOGS (Defence of Government Schools) Case:
Argument highlighted the significant differences between the US First Amendment and section 116 and the widely held but mistaken belief that the Australian constitution provided a “wall of separation.” p 54.

As the High Court would show, isolating the church and the state form each other was certainly not the intention of those who had drafted the Australian Constitution. p 55.

Justice Stephen: He thought that in any event, the drafters of the Australian Constitution were doing “no ore” that providing a prohibition against two things: the setting up of a national church and the favouring of one church over another.”

Conclusions

… it is the declining political influence that has led to some Christians becoming more and more active and organised in the public square.

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