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The relationship between the government and religion in Australia derives from the country's culture, which centers around colonialism. Furthermore, colonialism had a major impact on state control, imperialism, and the country's political regimes during this era. The influence of faith and government on education in Australia is visible in the form of state funding, charities, organizations such as the Commonwealth, and the results of contemporary scientists such as human cloning. If there are violations of power in the government, religion distinguishes them and assists in representing the vulnerable in those cases, particularly when it comes to educational issues. Ideas revolving around race, economic wealth, gender, and sexuality are important when it comes to government and religious support. For this reason, the representation of the public in politics has an equal importance like their denominational beliefs. The Australian government has been very active in emphasizing the equal contribution of its citizens on religious and political grounds. Thus, there is specific faith-based government services which involve churches such as Mission Australia, Anglicare, Wesley Mission, and the Salvation Army (Armstrong, 2000). Important to note is that the Australian government acknowledges the Islam religion although it still forms a small part of the Australian population given the element of ethnicity and race.
In 1970, the Council for the Defence of Government Schools (DOGS) in Australia challenged the move by the government to fund church schools. Under Section 116 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, the government did not have a mandate of funding church school as that would amount to establishing a religion. Moreover, the same applied to Americans, and it had caused the same problem. The First Amendment is clear as it protects the church from state interference and citizens had the right to practice the religion of their choice. Unlike the American government, Australia shared the same constitution with England that contributed to the issue of the government funding church schools as the European government did not see any separation between the two (Commonwealth of Australia Department of Education, Science and Training, 2005). Hence, there was the abolition of state aid to church schools in Australia.
Important to note is that not all church schools in Australia received state aid. In South Australia, there were nonconformists such as the Congregationalists and Methodists who were against the government funding. Moreover, the formation of the schools was on a voluntary basis which saw them withdraw from government aid after the establishment of the representative government in 1851. The dominant ethnic group was German-speaking settlers of Barossa Valley and they set up schools to preserve their culture. Upon passing the Education Acts in the 1870s and 1890s, the state aid to schools in all colonies came to an end. However, under the Whitlam Labor government, state aid for church schools returned which also meant the government would set up a school commission. Under the flagship of state funding were the Catholic schools and later on the Protestant schools.
The relationship between the government and religion in Australia also comes out when it comes to matters regarding charity. In 1996, Australia was facing the goods and services tax (GST) issue (Warhurst, 2007). Howard pushed for this proposal, but churches on the other side were offering criticism. Their argument based on the premise that the GST would improve the welfare for the rich where the luxury goods will become cheaper while making basics more expensive. On the other hand, according to Howard, going to church contributed to conservatism. Hence, he concluded that holding spiritual beliefs contributed to opposite effects on those policies pushed by the government (Hilary, 1996). People noted that the criticism of the church aimed at creating a Howard welfare shake-up and invoke the churches in a move to silence them to accept the GST.
Despite the fact that the government does not want the church to offer criticism to their policies, Howard wanted these religious institutions to offer cheap welfare. The government assistance in Australia was dwindling by the day in Australia, and this meant that charity was declining and people had to take personal responsibility when it came to some issues (Marion, 2005). Thus, the line separating the government from religion was very thin, and there was silencing on the part of the churches.
In religion, evil is regarded as a challenge to the monotheistic beliefs of individuals whereas, in civil life, things that amount to evil include poverty, the use of force, inequality, oppression, and crime. It is important to note that, Christians acknowledge evil as natural and accept the economic consequences (Waterman, 1991). Thus, this has contributed to some Christians believing that some social evils are morals and stem from concomitant willingness making them adopt reformist theories which are in line with politics. Moreover, churches in Australia have been skeptical regarding all the plans of political reforms undertaken by the government (Latham, 2002). Hence, Christians believe that some evils are as a result of the human decision and therefore to make the situation just, the citizens need to work for change. One good example of such a social evil is poverty.
The recent advancements in cloning involving stem cells have affected the relationship between the religious bodies and the government in Australia. Earlier, the Australian government issued an ultimatum that only permitted stem cell research and prohibited reproductive and therapeutic cloning. Religious leaders consider the cloning of humans as unethical while the scientists view this as a constraint to further progress in medical advancement. They believe that receiving permission to carry out therapeutic and reproductive cloning would assist them in solving diseases, ending despair, in easing the pain, and in ending suffering. Hence, they have pushed for the Amendment of the Australian Constitution and enforce legislation that will allow cloning (Latham, 2002). They believe they have the necessary talent and resources required and thus the government seems to support them. On the other hand, the religious bodies are strongly opposing this move.
The relationship between the government and religion in Australia regarding environmental education stems from the natural perception of the surrounding by individuals. Therefore, the people consider the environmental problem as religious and therefore the solutions ought to be religious. The solution to environmental problems is to provide education to Australian citizens, and for this matter, religious bodies find themselves at the center of this mission. Besides, all things are made by God including humans and the environment which justifies the religious argument of environmental education. The initiative taken by Christians shows a positive effort, and the government of Australia in most instances intervenes to make the process successful. Hence, there exists a good relationship between the Australian government and religious bodies.
The cutting of state aid for church and private schools led to the investigation of the values of the Howard Federal Government. Thus, the recommendations by the Conference of the Teachers Federation proposed the increase in direct federal funding of the church and private schools. The contribution of the state aid to church schools assisted the schools in meeting the needs which they could not cover given the resources at their disposal. In particular, the state aid assisted in consolidating the expansion of the Catholic middle class. Despite the fear that the state aid would overturn the educational settlements established in the 19th century by the Protestant church, their schools accepted the aid given the benefits Catholic schools got. More other church schools such as the Lutherans and the Protestant also accepted the aid.
On the other hand, the reintroduction of the state aid to church schools has impacted education in Australia as it has contributed to the shift in government priorities to allow non-government, low-fee, and middle-range schools grow. Not only are they primary schools but also secondary which were initially old but now have undergone a complete transformation to offer quality education. The reintroduction of the state aid had enabled the low-income families in Australia to pay moderate to low school fees, unlike the exorbitant fees they used to pay when the church schools never received funding. A good example is the Old Anglican Church schools which were unaffordable to many individuals due to escalating school fees. The state aid for church schools has also seen post-war migrants transfer their faith and culture to their children born in Australia. Despite all these, the funding of church schools by the government means that it introduced a formal arrangement while teaching children of different ethnic backgrounds. Hence, apart from adherence to their ethnic norms, funding church schools meant that students would conform to another universal educational system.
The environmental education programs established by the churches in Australia have played a significant role in education. The involvement of church schools in environmental conservation matters has seen the government introduce environmental topics in student learning syllabus. Important to note is that the syllabus applies to over half of the student population in the primary schools funded by the government. Learning environmental matters and issues surrounding its conservation means that the student gets a better understanding to explain why the environmental crisis occurs in Australia. Viewpoints like deep ecology and social ecology are part of the interest areas covered on the environmental subject alongside Christianity. Hence, the students have developed enthusiasm in the subject giving an indication that they will seek to further their studies majoring in the environment beyond primary schools. For this matter, students have appreciated different perspectives surrounding environmental issues.
There have been various responses regarding the issue of reproductive and therapeutic cloning. The introduction of the bill into the Australian Parliament by Mr. Lemma who is Catholic shows that genetic scientists are making progress in trying to overcome the challenges they face while conducting their research on cloning. For this reason, there has been a positive educational impact, but still, there is pressure from a section of the religious bodies. They have insisted on the fact that the scientists should take into consideration the consequences of human cloning and it means a lot for their place in the church. The parties involved here which include the government and religious bodies have exercised their moral judgment and respected the conscience vote of one another. Thus, the driving force here has been fundamentalism which ensures both parties arrive at a consensus without making one party lose while the other is gaining.
Christians perceive evil as either a social or a moral evil. Owing to this reason, a moral evil such as suffering caused by matters like diseases need change to address them, and through cloning, there is a possibility of putting an end to suffering. The role of the government has been regulation of the process in a move to preserve the dignity of human life which the Christians propose. Hence, the process of reproductive and therapeutic cloning will not face any limitations in Australia. Subsequently, the education of these genetic engineers will spur and pave the way for many advancements in the field of medicine. The milestone already achieved has assisted genetic engineers to impart the knowledge they acquired to learning doctors which have been of great significance to the education sector in Australia.
The connection between the government and religion in Australia stems from the fact that the history of the country revolves around colonialism. For this reason, the representation of the public in politics has an equal importance like their denominational beliefs. Regarding state aid for churches and schools, the Council for the Defence of Government Schools (DOGS) in Australia challenged the move by the government to fund church schools. Thus, it led to the discontinuation of this aid for some time. However, there was the reintroduction of this fund in 1972 which had many positive impacts on education in Australia.
On social justice and research on cloning, evil is regarded as a challenge to the monotheistic beliefs of individuals whereas, in civil life, things that amount to evil include poverty, the use of force, inequality, oppression, and crime. It is important to note that, Christians acknowledge evil as natural and accept the economic consequences. Hence, the milestone already achieved has assisted genetic engineers to impart the knowledge they acquired to other learning doctors which have been of great significance to the education sector in Australia. Despite the moral argument by the religious bodies, the government has intervened to regulate the process in a move to ensure there is the restoration of sanity.
Lastly, the relationship between the government and religion in Australia regarding environmental education stems from the natural perception of the surrounding by individuals. The initiative taken by Christians in conserving the environment shows a positive effort, and the government of Australia in most instances intervenes to make the process successful. Viewpoints like deep ecology and social ecology are part of the interest areas covered on the environmental subject alongside Christianity. Hence, the students have developed enthusiasm in the subject giving an indication that they will seek to further their studies majoring in the environment beyond primary schools.
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