Ban on religious books at Australian citizenship ceremonies reversed

by Ray Clancy on April 11, 2011

in Australia Immigration

Religion recognized in citizenship process

A ban on Bibles and other religious books being given as a gift at Australian citizenship ceremonies has been reversed.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced the change after what he described as a review of the current code that meant that religious texts could not be given to new citizens at the ceremonies.

The ban was introduced in the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code in 2008 that stated that ‘political and religious material’ could not be distributed at citizenship ceremonies.

Controversy about the change was highlighted last year when the Australian immigration department ordered Clarence Council in Tasmania to join Hobart City Council and others in Tasmania to stop proffering bibles that were supplied by the Bible Society of Australia.

Tasmanian senator Guy Barnett asked for a reversal of the ban when the council was forced to hand 72 bibles back to the Bible Society in compliance with the amended Code. He said it was political correctness gone mad.

He wrote again to the department in January this year and when he received not reply he sent a letter last month Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Now, a new code for citizenship will apply to Bibles and to other religious texts such as the Koran and Torah and other recognised religious books to be used to swear oaths of allegiance.

‘I am pleased to release an updated edition of the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code which revises existing policy around several areas, including the use of holy books at ceremonies,’’ said Bowen.

‘The changes will allow religious organisations wishing to provide holy books to new citizens, to supply those books to ceremony organisers. The holy books will be made available by organisers and it will be entirely up to individuals to choose whether or not to take one,’ he added.

Opposition spokesman on Immigration Scott Morrison said he welcomed the ‘change of heart’ and added; ‘The minister has seen the light.’

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