Over the past year or so, a number of us within the freethought movement have reached out to the “interfaith” community, challenging them to think beyond the confines of faith and begin talking with those of us who follow no faith.
As a result, RSA President Meredith Doig was invited to join a panel at the Australian Association for Religious Education conference in November 2014. Others on the panel were Elida Brereton (Chair of ACCESS Ministries), Adel Salman (director of Arkan Toledo, Islamic Special Religious Instruction), Naomi Swindon (Scripture Union) and Gersh Lazarow (Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth Israel).
While we agreed to disagree on the value of SRI, all on the panel (and, my sense was, in the audience) were united in condemning the Federal Government’s policy of restricting Chaplaincy Program funding to the religiously-affiliated only. I challenged my fellow panellists to join with me to urge Education Minister Martin Dixon to refuse the funding unless it were made available to non-religious welfare support officers and to my great surprise, they agreed!
The following day I drafted the letter and circulated it for their signatures. Unfortunately, following consultation with their respective organisations, political expediency trumped the principled views they expressed and they refused to sign.
In the short video below, Rod Bower from SECOA (Secular Coalition of Australia) provides commentary on the conference.