RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: by special reportNews Weekly
Bible banned at citizenship ceremonies
, March 5, 2011
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has confirmed that Bibles should be banned from citizenship ceremonies. The view was stated in answers to questions on notice asked by Tasmanian Liberal Senator Guy Barnett, and again in the Senate on February 21.
"I now call on the minister to overturn the decision of his department. He should allow Bibles to be offered as gifts at citizenship ceremonies," Senator Barnett said. "This is political correctness gone mad. We need freedom of
religion not freedom from
Senator Barnett had earlier written to Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Bowen on October 28, and again on January 12, asking him to confirm that Bibles were not banned at Australian citizenship ceremonies.
"I wrote to Minister Chris Bowen more than 110 days ago. He has not responded. This is contemptuous," Senator Barnett said.
"The offering of Bibles as gifts at citizenship ceremonies has occurred in this country for many years. It is still done and is generally well received and should continue."
In one of its responses, the department said that citizenship ceremonies were secular in nature and that the distribution of holy books by organisations conducting citizenship ceremonies was not appropriate. The ceremonies are normally organised by local councils.
Senator Barnett said: "Many community groups, charities and NGOs, including the Bible Society, have offered a range of gifts to new Australian citizens at citizenship ceremonies, all of whom have the choice to decide which gifts they would like to take home with them.
"The department has also now confirmed that community groups, including the Bible Society, are not allowed to offer as gifts the Bible or other holy books. This is disgraceful....
"The department has confirmed the ban, which is inconsistent with longstanding practice.