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Religion, spirituality and the social sciencesChallenging marginalisation$
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Basia Spalek and Alia Imtoual

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9781847420411

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781847420411.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM POLICY PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.policypress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Policy Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PPSO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

Section 116: the politics of secularism in Australian legal and political discourse

Section 116: the politics of secularism in Australian legal and political discourse

(p.51) Four Section 116: the politics of secularism in Australian legal and political discourse
Religion, spirituality and the social sciences

Holly Randell-Moon

Policy Press

This chapter examines the implications of liberal secular theories that conceptualise that religion should be separated from politics and other institutional forms of power. It particularly examines the constitutional and legal understandings of secularism in Australia. Drawing on the critical insights on secularism in the work of Talal Asad, it is argued that secularism does more than represent politics as separate from religion; it functions to provide particular understandings of religion. The first section of the chapter discusses liberal secularism to provide a background on the representations of secularism in Australia's Constitution. It specifically examines Section 116 of the Australian Constitution which outlines the relationship of religion and state. Section 116 implies that the separation of religion and state is neutral rather than strictly demarcated. The chapter concludes by arguing that theories of secularisation overlook ways in which the dominant religion can be integrated into government operations. This integration is supported by ethnocentric assumptions of cultural compatibility between specific religions and a secular state. In Australia specifically, although it sees itself as a secularist, there is an implicit and an unacknowledged relationship between forms of religious expression and the Australian secular state.

Keywords:   liberal secular theories, religion, politics, secularism, liberal secularism, Section 116, Australian Constitution, state, secularisation

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