How Australians View Religion

The Centre of Independent Studies has released a new policy paper, Respect and Division: How Australians View Religion, which found “religious tolerance is vital for a well-­functioning pluralistic, secular democracy”.

The paper is based on a YouGov/Galaxy survey of more than 1000 Australians, with a significant majority (78%) of Australians agreed with the statement, ‘respecting religious traditions and beliefs should be an important part of a multicultural society.’ 

This was the majority position of respondents, across both the religious and non-religious categories.

Of concern to Christian schools, 64 per cent of respondents did not support any organisations being allowed to refuse employment on religious grounds.

This was the majority position of respondents regardless of religious affiliation, with the strongest support coming from the categories of ‘Other Religion’ (77%) and ‘No Religion’ (73%).

Authors Monica Wilkie and Robert Forsyth said that “[r]efusing to employ someone on the basis of their religion runs counter to the egalitarian ethos shared by many Australians. Also, respondents are possibly imagining an individual being refused employment, rather than thinking about the question in terms of a religious organisation being able to maintain their character.”

When the question was put slightly differently, “Do you support the right of a religious school to employ teachers and other staff who support the values and beliefs of the school, if those values and beliefs are clearly stated?”, the results are quite different as demonstrated in our national polling earlier in the year –

The CIS paper goes on to say “[u]nderstanding religion properly — as a unity of belief and action — goes a long way in mediating some tensions in the religious freedom debate”.  As they point out, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognise both the right to hold and manifest a belief.

It is vital that Christian schools, and Christians generally, continue to emphasise the importance of living out our faith.  In our post Christian world this is poorly understood and seemingly not grasped by those without a faith.

The CIS Policy Paper can be downloaded from their website here.