The newest census outcomes are out and the variety of Australians who chosen “no faith” has risen once more to 38.9%, up from 30.1% in 2016.
This makes them the second-largest “spiritual group” after Christians, who make up 43.9% of the inhabitants, down from 52.1% in 2016.
Australia is commonly described as a secular nation and this ongoing motion from faith to “no faith” is a technique this manifests.
The numbers are fascinating however, as a authorized educational, I’m extra fascinated with what they imply in follow and the way this ongoing shift in Australia’s spiritual demographics performs out in our legal guidelines.
Why Australia wants a Spiritual Discrimination Act
Marriage equality, euthanasia and abortion
Maybe the obvious instance is marriage equality.
I started educating regulation and faith on the College of Western Australia simply over a decade in the past. On the time, we have been educating college students concerning the arguments for and towards same-sex marriage. Nonetheless, this was a purely theoretical idea.
True, the marketing campaign for same-sex marriage was superior even then. However repeated refusals on the time by political leaders similar to John Howard, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd to even contemplate legalising similar intercourse marriage made it look like marriage equality was nonetheless many years away. On the time of the 2016 census, marriage equality was nonetheless theoretical.
How shortly issues change.
Within the 5 years between the 2016 census and 2021 census, Australia noticed a monumental shift in what would possibly broadly be thought-about ethical legal guidelines.
In December 2017 the definition of marriage was formally modified to being the union of two individuals voluntarily entered into for all times, no matter gender.
However marriage equality is simply the tip of the iceberg. Euthanasia and abortion legal guidelines have additionally been reformed within the 5 years between the censuses.
Victoria, WA and Tasmania all handed legal guidelines to legalise euthanasia. Queensland and New South Wales have additionally handed related legal guidelines for the reason that 2021 census.
Abortion has been decriminalised in all states, with South Australia, NSW, the Northern Territory and Queensland all making reforms to their legal guidelines.
What occurs if you need entry to voluntary assisted dying however your nursing dwelling will not allow you to?
An ongoing debate about freedom of faith
Given this authorized shift away from what are generally known as “conventional ethical legal guidelines”, it could appear unusual that, concurrently, there has additionally been an ongoing debate about freedom of faith.
The controversy has been the fiercest, and most painful, in relation to discrimination by spiritual colleges.
On one hand, some spiritual colleges declare they want to have the ability to preserve their distinctive religion id, particularly the place that is out of step with mainstream beliefs.
On the opposite, LGBTQ+ teams particularly argue discrimination is dangerous and not acceptable in fashionable Australia.
It’s tempting to argue that, given the variety of Australians who don’t have a faith, spiritual perception ought to give approach to the secular.
Nonetheless, it is very important do not forget that a big portion of the inhabitants nonetheless establish with a faith.
It’s also vital to notice that Australia’s spiritual range is rising.
As I famous again in 2017:
Within the battle for supremacy between the “nones” and Christianity, we should additionally take heed to minority faiths which in 2016 made up 8.2% of the Australian inhabitants. For small and rising religion teams, whose beliefs and practices is probably not effectively understood in Australia, there may be all the time an actual danger of coverage choices affecting their spiritual beliefs and practices unintentionally or as the results of misunderstanding.
It’s due to this fact extra vital than ever to have a sturdy and respectful debate about freedom of faith and the place of faith in secular Australia.
A part of the reply might lie in a balanced Spiritual Discrimination Act. It would additionally lie in respectful conversations about regulation reform. This should embody these of minority faiths, these of the bulk Christian religion, and people of no religion.
Abortion is not a criminal offense in Australia. So why is it nonetheless so laborious to entry?
Renae Barker is the Advocate for the Anglican Diocese of Bunbury and member of the Anglican Basic Synod. These are each voluntary positions.