The 2016 Australian Census revealed 52.1 per cent of the population identified as Christian, while only 2.6 per cent subscribed to Islam, and at least 30 per cent noted that they had no religion.
Despite the plurality of ideologies in Australia, it’s not uncommon to hear people claim that Australia is a secular nation. What’s often meant is that Christianity has no place in politics. Which is a sentiment usually summed up in the now misunderstood phrase, “Separation of Church and State.”
As Dr Stephen Chavura recently noted, there’s a common misconception that separation of church and state means religion should not have any influence on politics or legislation.
Separation of church and state is about the power of one institution over another – of the government over the churches and over people’s religious beliefs. Separation of religion and politics is the idea that religion shouldn’t in any way influence politics, and that’s probably not even possible – unless you want to go to North Korea or Communist China.
In the following clip, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rightly argues, “Australia is not a secular country, it is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose. Secularism is just one. It has no greater claim than any other on our society… The constitution provides for freedom of religion, not from religion.”