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Church and State Issues: Religious Pluralism Essay


Should Religious Education be a compulsory subject in all schools, including public schools?

Religious education should not be a compulsory subject in public schools because this requirement can violate the rights of both students and policies. First of all, one should bear in mind that some of the learners may not have any religious beliefs. In other words, they are not a part of their worldview or value system. Therefore, it is not reasonable or ethical to impose any religious doctrines on them.

Certainly, some parents may decide that their children should be knowledgeable in various aspects of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or any other religion. In this case, they can choose a school in which this subject can be a part of the curriculum. However, this choice should not be imposed on a person. Apart from that, this policy will contradict the principle which separates the church and the government (Tunnels, 66).

Certainly, students may need to learn about the history of various religions, their development, and their current status. To some degree, this knowledge can help them better understand Australian society, which is very diverse in terms of religion. Yet, this topic can be covered during other courses such as history or sociology, and there is no need to make it a separate part of the curriculum.

Finally, it is important to remember that imposing compulsory religious education on students, teachers, and school administrators can only make them more averse to religion. It is one of the main pitfalls that should be avoided. These are some of the main arguments that should be considered by educators, policy-makers, and religious leaders who shape the curriculum of public schools.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has stated that Muslims in the United Kingdom should be able to choose to live under and be judged by the religious law of Islam (the Sharia) at least to some extent. Many jurists are aghast at the idea. What do you think?

At present, some policy-makers and religious leaders argue that Muslim people should have a right to live and be judged according to Islamic law, also known as Sharia. To a great extent, these attempts can be explained by the diversity of modern societies. In my view, one should be very careful when making such arguments because this ethical and legal doctrine adopted in the Muslim community can contain elements that are not compatible with liberal or democratic principles.

For instance, one can mention that it fails to protect the rights of the LGBT community or freedom of religion (Spiegel 122). Furthermore, in many cases, this legal system cannot protect the victims of domestic violence (Spiegel 122). These examples suggest that Islamic law can be only partially applicable to the United Kingdom or any other western state. Apart from that, one should bear in mind that people representing different religions and worldviews can enter into conflict. However, under such circumstances, there should be a single legal framework that can resolve possible their conflict or disagreement.

This argument is particularly applicable to various situations such as divorce, libel, tort, and many other cases. These cases should be taken into account by legislators who must decide when and how Islamic law can be introduced. They should make sure that the civic rights of people are not violated. Furthermore, these professionals should think about the implication of this decision for other citizens who may not have any religious beliefs. These are some of the precautions that should be taken.

Should Christmas and Easter, specifically Christian festivals, be public holidays in Australia?

Such religious festivals as Christmas and Easter have traditionally been public holidays in many countries, including Australia. In my view, this situation is quite acceptable, even for a person who may not practice Christianity. One should take into account that some of the holidays, especially, Christmas are a part of the cultural tradition that is practiced by people who have grown up in Australia. They are not necessarily related only to Christianity. It is one of the main details that should be considered. Nevertheless, one should take into account that there are more than twenty holidays that are celebrated by Christians. Each of them cannot become a public holiday. It is the main limitation that should not be overlooked.

This discussion suggests that modern public holidays are more connected to cultural rather than religious tradition. It is necessary to remember that Australia’s citizens may practice other religions. The number of such citizens has increased dramatically within the recent decade. Therefore, some people can say other religious festivals can also become public holidays. For example, one can mention Ramadan. However, such a policy can lead to a situation when many religious festivals can become public holidays. Such a situation may not be acceptable for public organizations and businesses. Therefore, it is possible to make exceptions only for Christmas and Easter.

Should candidates for public office be required to declare their religious allegiance, if any?

Candidates for public offices should not be required to identify their political allegiance. In my opinion, this part of a person’s self-identity is not related to the professional skills of this individual. Moreover, a candidate can cope with his/her duties even without having religious beliefs. It is one of the main points that should be considered. Additionally, this requirement can imply that a person may not be suitable for some position only because he/she belongs to a certain religious tradition. It is one of the main pitfalls that should be considered. In my view, a candidate should disclose only the information about his/her education, work experience, and other information that can be relevant to his future activities.

It should be kept in mind that public officers can interact with people who may belong to various cultural, religious, or ethnic groups. Therefore, this professional should be impartial when interacting with others. This goal cannot be attained if candidates have to use their religious affiliation as a means of climbing the career ladder. This risk should be taken into account by public administrators who shape the policies of governmental organizations. These institutions should be free of religious biases and prejudices. It is one of the main points that should be made.

Overall, this requirement is hardly acceptable in a society in which the functions of the church and state are separated from one another. Moreover, the civil or professional status of an individual should not depend on his/her religious allegiance. It is the main principle that policy-makers should take into consideration.

Religious Pluralism

Religious pluralism is one of the most contested issues in contemporary Australian society. The meaning of this concept can be interpreted in several ways. For example, it can be defined as a peaceful interaction among the representatives of different religions or confessions (Banchoff 4; Tunnels, 20). Moreover, this notion implies that religious actors strive to put themselves in the position of one another (Banchoff, 4). Apart from that, they attempt to appreciate different value systems that may not be typical of their religions. To a great extent, this ideology emphasizes the inclusionary nature of religious faith.

These are the main elements that can be singled out. One of the main questions is whether this doctrine can apply to modern Australia. This question has become important because the Australian community is very diverse in terms of its religion, culture, race, and many other criteria. At present, the Australian state pursues policies that are based on Enlightenment liberalism (Monsma and Soper 99). In other words, governmental institutions do not wish to interfere with the activities of religious organizations. Furthermore, the government accepts the diversity of different religious movements; however, it does not emphasize the need for interaction between various religions.

In other words, it remains neutral. Overall, one can say that religious pluralism can be possible only if church leaders raise people’s awareness about the need to understand the values of others. This is the main objective that should be attained. Nevertheless, the goal of the government is to remain impartial. It is one of the main points that can be made.

It should be mentioned that the attempts to promote religious pluralism have proved to be very costly in part because the state cannot transform the value systems of believers and their attitudes toward other people (Monsma and Soper 117). In particular, some public administrators attempted to include religious education in schools. For example, one can mention the effort to employ chaplains in schools (Monsma and Soper 117).

It should be mentioned that these chaplains could represent different religious traditions such as Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, or Judaism (Monsma and Soper 117). However, this program proved to be very expensive. Furthermore, some of the parents and educators objected to this initiative because this policy could diminish funding for other educational programs. This issue becomes particularly important nowadays at the time when Australia attracts thousands of immigrants who belong to various cultures, religions, or ethnic groups.

It is vital to ensure that children of these people can effectively integrate into Australian society. The critics of this ideology believe a state cannot effectively promote successfully this ideology. More likely, it is the task of church leaders, rather than policy-makers and public administrators. It is the main argument that can be put forward.

Moreover, it is important to remember that the effective implementation of religious pluralism can be possible only if people, who have strong religious beliefs, re-evaluate some of their principles and values. In his article, David D’Costa attempts to exemplify the impossibility of religious pluralism in modern societies (224). According to this author, the norms of various religious traditions can differ dramatically. For instance, some representatives of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam do not accept Buddhism or Hinduism as a true religion. Admittedly, such opinions are not prevalent, but they can be expressed by many people. Moreover, some believers do not accept the premise that there can be several conceptions of God (D’Costa, 224).

In other words, modern religions tend to be exclusionary. Certainly, some church leaders did try to eliminate some of the religious biases, but their efforts have not always been successful. It is one of the reasons why the principles of pluralism cannot be easily applied to modern societies unless church leaders promote the principles of diversity. The main problem is that the government can only prevent discrimination and intolerance, but this institution cannot change people’s values. Therefore, the principles of religious pluralism can be plausible only if church leaders attempt to change the attitudes of people (D’Costa 225). It is the main challenge that cannot be easily resolved. One can argue that it is a very time-consuming task that cannot be easily fulfilled.

There are several ways in which this issue can be addressed. First of all, educators should raise students’ awareness about similarities and distinctions among religions. In particular, teachers can speak about the development of the most influential religions during history classes. In this way, it will be possible to raise students’ awareness about the causes of religious biases or prejudices. It is one of the suggestions that can be made. This task should be considered by the administrators of schools since these professionals should make some changes to the existing curriculum. Nevertheless, the most optimal approach is to promote the idea of tolerance, according to which a person should not be discriminated against based on his/her religious faith.

In this way, it will be possible for society to eliminate the tensions and ensure the separation of the church and the state. This approach has proved efficient in various western countries, including Australia, and there is no reason to dismiss this public policy and look for alternatives that have never been tested. This approach to religious pluralism can benefit people who represent different religious traditions. These are some of the main recommendations that can be put forward.

These examples suggest that, at present, the principles of religious pluralism have not been completely implemented in Australian society. The main problem is that religions often tend to be exclusionary in their treatment of other worldviews. In many cases, different value systems cannot be easily reconciled. It is one of the main challenges that should be considered. This obstacle can be overcome if church leaders try to make people more tolerant. Overall, one can say that the implementation of religious pluralism is a very gradual process that requires a change in public opinion.

Works Cited

Banchoff, Thomas. Religious Pluralism, Globalization, and World Politics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

D’Costa, G.. “The Impossibility of a Pluralist View of Religions”. Religious Studies, 32.2 (1996): 223-232. Print.

Hinnels, John. The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion, New York, Routledge, 2005. Print.

Monsma, Stephen and Soper, Charles. The Challenge of Pluralism: Church and State in Five Democracies, New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009. Print.

Spiegel, Anthony. Contested Public Spheres: Female Activism and Identity Politics in Malaysia, New York: Springer, 2010. Print.

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