Doctor and activist

Religious Update:  2 items from Secular Australia

2 June 2024

Wording of the Census

A battle is brewing between Catholic Church leaders and secular groups over the religion question in the Australian census. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is currently testing whether it would be better to ask “Does the person have a religion?” rather than “What is the person’s religion?”, after 9.8 million people (approximately 40% of responses) indicated in the 2021 count that they had no faith. The new question would have a mark box for both “No” and “Yes (specify religion)”. The bureau is also testing the use of a write-in box for respondents who wish to indicate more detail on their faith, rather than simply picking from a small list of common religions.

The Lord’s Prayer in Parliament House, Victoria

Liberal upper house member Evan Mulholland has placed a motion on the Notice Paper in support of faith leaders who wrote to all members of parliament earlier this month demanding that the parliament continue to observe prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer, at the opening of each sitting day.

It has been 1034 days since the state Labor government promised to replace prayers with something more reflective and appropriate for Victoria’s diverse community.

Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes has acknowledged the government’s “unmet commitment”.

The flurry of activity – the letter from faith leaders and motions on the Notice Paper – may be a sign that the government is ready to deal with the matter.

Earlier in the year, Mr Mulholland declared that the Liberal Party would “fiercely oppose” any attempt to remove prayer.

Census data show that Christianity has plummeted from 85 per cent of the Victorian population in the 1970s to 41 per cent in 2021. The percentage of people who identified as having no religion at the 2021 Census was 39 per cent.

Arthur Chesterfield-Evans

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