Fiona Patten MP, believes in freedom of and freedom from religion. We as Australian citizens have the freedom to think and believe what we want. We are entitled to enjoy our human rights while being protected from discrimination.
Australia is a secular nation, enjoying the legal separation of religion and state, guaranteed by section 116 of the Australian Constitution.
She believes that religious organisations should be treated equally and be subject to the same laws as other organisations. However, there are two distinct ways in which they are not:
Many faith based institutions remain unincorporated associations. These lack distinct legal personalities and therefore cannot be sued. Faith based institutions should have a corporate identity, so they may then sue and be sued, just like anyone else. This is particularly relevant to victims of institutional child abuse.
Religious institutions receive automatic tax exempt status. I am planning to introduce a Bill into Parliament in 2018 that will aim to remove the ‘advancement of religion’ from the statutory definition of charity, so that religious organisations do not enjoy automatic tax exempt status. Most people understand charity to be the voluntary giving of help to those in need – it is that compassionate activity that should be tax exempt. Fiona does not in any way oppose tax deductions for genuine charitable works by religious institutions which benefit the wider community, but she believes that only genuine charitable work should be tax exempt.
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