I believe in the total separation of church and state. This includes:
- no religious instruction or visits by religious proponents to public schools
- no reference to religious beliefs in state functions or events (such as the prayers during the opening of state and federal parliaments). The views of Australian political parties to this practice are here
- the removal of all religious holidays from the calendar of the Australian secular state
I propose that instead of the state sanctioning the holy days of only one declining religion (Christianity), it should instead create a system where citizens receive the right to take a number of holidays per year at the time of their choosing. Perhaps 3-5 days in lieu of religious public holidays could be made part of all employment contracts and other regulations.
Instead of Christmas and Easter being state holidays they should become private events like the holy days of other religions. Citizens could nominate the days important to them, depending on their religious beliefs, well in advance so as not to disadvantage employers.
In the multicultural, multifaith Australian community it is illogical to give Christianity greater state recognition than other religions. It discriminates against other faiths. It also enforces Christian holidays on non-Christians, who represent the majority of the population.
There is a clear utility to this scheme for employers and employees.
For employers, this would spread leave more widely throughout the calendar, and potentially provide the opportunity to keep their offices open over Christmas, staffed by non-Christian employees. Imagine the value in being able to continue doing business with non-Christian countries, especially in the Asian region, with important trade partners Japan and China (where Christmas is not a public holiday).
For employees and citizens, the benefit is also clear – they can take days off work to celebrate or observe those days that are important to them, based on their religious beliefs or cultural values.
Chinese Australians could more easily celebrate the lunar new year. Orthodox Christians could observe according to the Julian Calendar. Atheists like me can simply take a slightly longer holiday by combining these public holiday in lieu days with our annual leave. Everyone’s a winner.
Secular humanists should try harder to engender social change to remove the oppression and limitations of the past. We should think of the needs of the population of the future, which is likely to be more diverse and less religious than it is at present.
I demand the freedom to live my life my way. Through this policy ideas I offer all citizens the same freedom, which is an improvement on the circumstances many people currently experience.
It would take a brave government to consider these ideas. Cultural inertia is strong, as is conservative prejudice against non-Christians and the secular humanist way of life.