When it comes to the allocation of public monies there is no separation of church and state as Government allocates funds hither and thither of all sorts of religious or irreligious activities.
One philosophical reason for this is that Christians pay their taxes and are part of the Australian community and are therefore entitled to have publicly allocated monies returned to their community activities.
Remember when public monies were put into such events as the World Catholic Youth Day, the restoration of the Bunbury Anglican Cathedral, the day to day School Chaplaincy program and now, on the other hand, an international atheists conference.
In the case of the World Catholic Youth Day and the Atheists conference the case is made that there is a core tourist benefit to the economy. In the case of restoration monies a case can be made for heritage public buildings. For school chaplaincy a case is made for pastoral care.
Moreover seminary students, once barred from receiving government Centrelink allowances, like any other tertiary degree, can now access such educational payments.
Can a case be made as to where the axe falls and who makes such determinations as to what is a public good and part of the public domain, and what is religious, and part of the religious domain where public monies are not allocated.
Certainly World Catholic Youth Day with the Pope attending to celebrate the Mass is clearly religious, however someone made the determination that as well as being religious it was also of public good in so far as thousands upon thousands of 'post event tourists' would boost the national economy.
This is where it gets tricky. Someone made a determination that the religious side of that event was non-government funded, however the tourist side of it was. Therefore should the monies allocated have been directed into tourist industries to promote their tourist products to Catholic visitors, rather than into the coppers of the Australian Catholic treasury.
The politics of the event was that 24% of the Australian population are Catholics (2006 Census) who pay their taxes, and those taxes are the public's money and politicians are there to enact the good of those who elect them. A political case was made to give public monies to the World Catholic Youth Day.
The Atheists Conference in Melbourne was drawing only 2500 delegates and that too seems to have been enough people to have warranted public monies. Atheists too pay their taxes and there are enough "God non-believers" for a political decision to be made in order to support such an event out of public funds.
Hillsong every week draws crowds of around 17,000 people. Their annual conference draws crowds of around that number, and is public money handed out to the annual Hillsong conference? The same tourist dollar value retains similar merit to the other two.
Clearly there is a political element to the decisions made as to who gets allocated public monies.
We could add to that same list, private religious schooling, religious run hospitals and retirement facilities, religious welfare benevolent programs and the like. Maybe just maybe, like Denmark, there is a case to reconcile all these by all such programs and events funded through the Federal taxation system.
Monies go round and round. The Government allocates say $5 million to an event. That event brings into the Australian economy in all its facets, say $55 million. The GST and other taxes and charges brings back into Government coffers $25 million. That $25 million is distributed to the benefit of all - even if it is a few dollars to Shire Councils for better roads in their regular allocation of funds.
The current system allows a selected number of events to be given hand-outs, from the many science conferences that are held annually in Australia to an occasional religious event.
But, I for one, has been to numerous international Christian and Denominational conferences held in Australia with a lot more than 2500 people (as in that atheists conference), and not one red cent of public monies has been received by Christian event organisers.
It is by no means a level playing field.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 25 books, and enjoys writing. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded ‘The Gutenberg’ - the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. He and David Chang editor of Christian Today together bought the young writer ministry into fruition in 2009. In 2011 Mark established Laguna Quays Respite (Whitsundays) for missionary respite and replicated at Aldinga Beach 2016 (Adelaide) and Greens Beach Bass Straight (TAS). His ministry is honoured all these years by Christian philanthropist Mr Basil Sellers AM. He is married to Delma (44 years), with four adult married children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/dr-mark-t.html