Rationalist Society of Australia


The Rationalist Society of Australia relies on the support of our members to survive. Please join today, or renew your membership.



Welcome to the Rationalist Society of Australia, Australia’s oldest freethought association.

Rationalists hold that all significant beliefs and actions should be based on reason and evidence, that the natural world is the only world there is, and that answers to the key questions of human existence are to be found only in that natural world.  “We’re in favour of science and evidence as opposed to superstition and bigotry!”



 

 

 

 

 

 

Removing SRI from your school: A “How To” guide

Thanks to Jacqui Tomlins for this particularly useful guide.

  1. Raise awareness – inform parents about what SRI is really about
  2. Have playground conversations
  3. Speak with key people at the school – teachers, school councillors, the principal
  4. Submit a formal letter to the School Council.

High Court upholds Ron Williams Challenge to Chaplaincy Program

Thursday 19 June 2014

The High Court has upheld the second Williams challenge to the constitutionality of the National Chaplaincy Program.

As far as I can tell, the Court’s argument goes something like this:

  • the Commonwealth argued it had authority to fund the Chaplaincy Program because of section 51 (part xxiiiA) of the Constitution.  This section says that the Commonwealth may fund programs which, among other things, provide benefits to students.
  • the Court found however that the Commonwealth could not rely on this section because chaplaincy program services “is not a provision of benefits to students within the meaning of section 51 (part xxiiiA)”
  • this is because the chaplaincy program does not provide material aid to identifiable recipients, nor is it directed to students in their capacity as students, as required by section 51 (part xxiiiA.

 

While this is a strong decision, there are ways the Commonwealth can get around it to continue the Chaplaincy scheme.  The Prime Minister Tony Abbott has already come out and said “This is a policy that was invented by the Coalition, it was supported by the Coalition … so we very much support it and we want it to continue.”

One way for this to happen would be for the Commonwealth to direct the quarter of a billion dollars through the States.  Given Victoria’s strong stance narrowly restricting the delivery of Special Religious Instruction, it would be interesting to see its response to such a move.

New push for Dying with Dignity

peter short

Peter Short is dying …

Peter Short is dying of a terrible form of cancer. And still, legislators in this country refuse to allow him to die the sort of death he wants.

We know the medical profession already practises voluntary euthanasia – just talk to anyone in your family who’s had an elderly relative in hospital at the end of their lives. It happens. Medicos know it’s the humane thing to do. But politicians are scared of a supposed backlash to bring this shadowy practice out into the open.

Greens Senator Richard Di Natale, a medico himself, will be introducing a private member’s bill on medically assisted dying into the Federal parliament and has asked Peter Short to accompany him there. Di Natale is working to get bipartisan support for the bill.

This may be the best chance for a long time to get the politicians to do the right thing and get this bill up.

It would make a real difference if there were as many signed up supporters as possible.

Please sign Peter’s petition here.

It is RSA policy to support the introduction of physician assisted dying – see our 10 Point Plan here.

Survey of Religion in South Australian schools

Brian Morris is a professional journalist and member of Atheism South Australia Inc. In April 2014 he approached the RSA, seeking support for a survey he wanted to conduct.

Atheism SA suspected that, while South Australian schools should have been free of Special Religious Instruction since 1968, it may be creeping back, due to the SA Education Department Administrative Instructions and Guidelines giving individual principals discretion to allow in “explicit faith-based groups”.

To find out, Morris wrote to 500 schools in South Australia. This is his report.

The Project

With no information publicly available for the level of religion instruction in South Australian schools, an attempt was made to survey school principals to acquire initial data.  The 1-page survey and covering letter were kept simple and to the point, and were to serve as a starting point for a more detailed survey, should the need arise at a later date.

  • ŸSurvey form and letter sent to 500 SA schools.  435 public schools + 65 selected private schools.  Copies attached.
  • Mailed out 30.4.14 with responses requested by 26.5.14.

 

The Results

Regrettably, the response has been extremely poor.  Reasons are canvassed in the conclusion:

  • Ÿ45 responses (9%).  Response method:  11 by on-line (24.4%) ,  10 by email (22.2%),  24 by return mail (53.4%).
  • Ÿ 2 other surveys were completed but had no school identification, from either the form or returning envelope.
  • Ÿ 2 further responses: 1 wishing to respond but unauthorised by DECD;  1 other RTS unopened.
  • Ÿ31 schools hosted Chaplains (69%), including one Christian Pastoral Support Worker.
  • Ÿ 4 schools had token sessions of Secular Ethics.
  • Ÿ 5 schools had token sessions of Comparative Religion classes.
  • Ÿ 8 public schools had either 1 period per term of religious instruction, or twice per year at Christmas and Easter.
  • Ÿ 3 private schools had weekly religious instruction.
  • Ÿ Only 1 private school indicated that the Bible was taught “as the inerrant word of God”.

 

Conclusions

There may be several reasons for the poor response.

  • Ÿ Survey lacked authorisation from Dept. Ed. (DECD); commented by Unley High School, but supportive of survey.
  • Ÿ A high profile organisation would certainly have achieved a higher strike rate.
  • Ÿ Some schools may have felt restrained to respond in the current climate (National Curriculum Review).
  • No assessment can be made of the extent to which:  The spreadsheet is attached:
  • Ÿ Religion is being taught in public schools.  Perhaps many schools run SRI classes but have simply neglected to respond.
  • Ÿ While only a token survey was extended to private (Christian) schools, there may well be a significant number that teach a literal interpretation of the Bible, similar to Prescott College.

 

The logical follow-up, from a journalistic viewpoint, would be to phone at least 100 public schools to discover reasons for their disinclination to respond and, where possible, to then conduct the survey verbally.  Under normal circumstances I would be amenable to this follow-through but unfortunately, at this point, I simply do not have the time.

The organisation greatly appreciates the contribution made by RSA to enable this trial project to proceed.  Our thanks are extended also to (RSA committee member) Rohan Kapitany for designing and monitoring the on-line element of the survey.  We trust RSA feels the survey was worth the attempt, disappointing though the results have been.  Clearly, it remains essential to acquire information about religion in SA schools but a fresh approach will be needed.

 

Kind regards

Brian Morris

Atheism SA Inc

The Rationalist Society of Australia relies on the support of our members to survive. Please join today, or renew your membership.



Welcome to the Rationalist Society of Australia, Australia’s oldest freethought association.

Rationalists hold that all significant beliefs and actions should be based on reason and evidence, that the natural world is the only world there is, and that answers to the key questions of human existence are to be found only in that natural world.  “We’re in favour of science and evidence as opposed to superstition and bigotry!”




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