Monday, 9 July 2007

Event in Sydney: Separation of Church and State, 12th July

Thursday 12th July 2007 at 6pm
Separation of Church and State?

Venue : Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts,
280 Pitt Street Sydney
Cost : Free

See www.sydneymsa.com.au

Should there be a clear separation of church and state? Are implied or actual threats of formal church disapproval or even exclusion going too far?

Speakers: Max Wallace (NSW Humanists, former A.N.U academic, whose book,
The Purple Economy, supernatural charities, tax and the State is forthcoming) and Reverend Nigel Fortescue (Assistant Minister, Naremburn Cammeray Anglican Church, a dynamic and growing Anglican Church on Sydney's North Shore)

Political and policy debates on stem cell research, terminating pregnancies, same sex relationships, capital punishment and euthanasia are often the subject of 'conscience votes' ie when the discipline of party politics is relaxed and members of parliament are allowed to vote according to their 'consciences'. What these issues have in common is that they often relate to particular sets of religious beliefs about the sanctity of life, when life begins and other such issues.

This connection encourages lobby groups including the churches to intervene to persuade individual politicians to take up particular lines, as is a legitimate part of the democratic process.

But how far should these powerful institutions go to pressure their members to do their bidding? What is the role of Churches, Temples, Synagogues and Mosques and other religious institutions vis a vis government? Should church leaders publicly pressure their presumed members to comply with their policies?

There are interesting issues on how far the individual 'conscience' votes of politicians should reflect their personal views, those of their constituencies, scientific evidence or the influence of particular religious institutions.

The recent bill on stem cell research, in the NSW Upper house, has stirred up wide debate as various Church leaders sought to influence votes on what is fair and unfair influence and we wish to explore these questions in our July Controversies debate.

John August, convenor The Sydney Shove - www.sydneyshove.org

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