I believe in freedom of and freedom from religion. We as Australian citizens have the freedom to think and believe what we want. We are entitled to enjoy our human rights while being protected from discrimination.
Australia is a secular nation, enjoying the legal separation of religion and state, guaranteed by section 116 of the Australian Constitution.
I believe that religious organisations should be treated equally and be subject to the same laws as other organisations. However, there are two distinct ways in which they are not:
Many faith based institutions remain unincorporated associations. These lack distinct legal personalities and therefore cannot be sued. I believe that faith based institutions should have a corporate identity, so they may then sue and be sued, just like anyone else. This is particularly relevant to victims of institutional child abuse.
Religious institutions receive automatic tax exempt status. I believe that the ‘advancement of religion’ should be removed from the statutory definition of charity, so that religious organisations do not enjoy automatic tax exempt status. Most people understand charity to be the voluntary giving of help to those in need – it is that compassionate activity that should be tax exempt. I do not in any way oppose tax deductions for genuine charitable works by religious institutions which benefit the wider community, but I believe that only genuine charitable work should be tax exempt.
If you are interested in these concepts, I would encourage you to read the following:
Click on this link to read our Intern, Sofia Zudova’s 2016 research report titled ‘On the taxation of religious charities and the public benefit of charitable exemptions’
Click on this link to read my recent contribution to debate in Parliament on religious accountability
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