Throughout Australia public meetings were held and petitions signed to campaign for the recognition of God in the Constitution. For instance, the NSW Council of Churches embarked on a campaign -
  1. That in the preamble of the Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth it be recognised that God is the Supreme Ruler of the world, and the ultimate source of all law and authority in nations.

  2. That there also be embodied in the said Constitution, or in the standing orders of the Federal Parliament, a provision that each daily session of the Upper and Lower Houses of the Federal Parliament be opened with a prayer by the President and Speaker, or by a Chaplain.

  3. That the Governor-General be empowered to appoint days of national thanksgiving and humiliation, as had occurred in various states prior to Federation (See the NSW Day of Humiliation and Prayer on the 11th September 1895 in this volume, as well as the article on National Days of Prayer).

It is unlikely Federation of the States would have been approved if the preamble had not included reference to Almighty God, as alluded to by Mr. Lyne (NSW) in the debate. Even the Sydney Morning Herald's editorial dated 14th April, 1897 stated "no Christian could in conscience vote for a Federation Bill that did not recognise God"! Some members of the constitutional convention had reservations, but with the inclusion of section 116, this was resolved and the "recognition insertion" was carried unanimously. Section 116 states:

"The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth."

The concluding remarks by Sir John Downer are extremely noteworthy, both in relation to the English Constitution and Christianity, and to his determination that "the commonwealth will be from its first stage a Christian Commonwealth".

For a comprehensive understanding of this subject, read Richard Ely's book entitled Unto God and Caesar: Religious issues in the emerging Commonwealth 1891-1906 , MUP 1976.

Background Note on the United States of America being "A Christian Nation"

In1892 the United States Supreme Court determined, in the case of the Church of the Holy Trinity vs. United States (143 United States 457 1892), that America was a Christian nation from its earliest days. The court opinion, delivered by Justice Josiah Brewer, was an exhaustive study of the historical and legal evidence for America's Christian heritage. After examining hundreds of court cases, state constitutions, and other historical documents, the court came to the following conclusion:

"Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and institutions are emphatically Christian ... This is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour there is a single voice making this affirmation... We find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth... These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation."


Mr. GLYNN (South Australia). - I beg to move -

That the following words be inserted after the word "Constitution" (line 2): - "humbly relying upon the blessing of Almighty God."

I wish to move the insertion of this form of words in the preamble, because I think that it embodies the spirit of the nine suggestions in regard to this matter made by the various Houses of Parliament which have considered the Draft Constitution. The words I wish to insert are simple and unsectarian. They are expressive of our ultimate hope of the final end of all our aspirations, of the great elemental truth upon which all our creeds are based, and towards which the lines of our faiths converge. They will, I think, recommend the Constitution to thousands to whom the rest of its provisions may for ever be a sealed book. If our whole ceremonial life is not touched with insincerity, and its symbols are not empty and vain, if there be a reality greater than we can grasp at the back of all our aspirations; a mind as eternal as time, and infinite as space, to which the phenomena of the world and our lives are but a passing phase; if the invocation of the Divine blessing and sanction upon the many occasions of our daily life is not a mere empty formality; we cannot, at the moment of entering into a union so full as this of the possibilities of good and evil, of contentment or regret - of, in the words of Jeremy Taylor, felicity or lasting sorrow - refuse to give expression to the central fact of all our faiths. In an affirmation of pure reverence and submission such as this, the adherents of all creeds, sinking their differences of form and method, can join, and will find the spirit of toleration in them growing strong under a sense of their common aim. It will thus become the pledge of religious toleration. We may be met again by mere considerations of propriety. We may be told that everything has its appropriate time and place, and that words of faith should not be embedded in the preamble of an Act or Parliament. But I would point out that this objection proves too much, and, if pushed to the full limit of its application, would deprive half the offices and courtesies of life of their highest significance.

The stamp of religion is fixed upon the front of our institutions, its letter is impressed upon the book of our lives, and that its spirit, weakened though it may be by the opposing forces of the world, still lifts the pulse of the social organism. It is this, not the iron hand of the law, that is the bond of society; it is this that gives unity and tone to the texture of the whole; it is this, that by subduing the domineering impulses and the reckless passions of the heart, turns discord to harmony, and evolves the law of moral progress out of the clashing purposes of life. In these days of too-often dying ideals, when thoughts that once would burn are chilled by the besetting touch of commonplace; when utility seems the measure of virtue, and the greater passions pale under the searching rays of reason; when affection, love, duty, the divine but reckless instincts of patriotism, have been expressed in the language of metaphysics, or become the subjects of mental pathology; when the ardour that fires our noblest aims is damped by a calculating cynicism, and the glow of poetry goes out before the glare of materialism; it is well that we should set in our Consitution something that may at times remind us of ideals beyond the counter, and of hopes that lift us higher than the vulgar realities of the day. I speak not as one whose mind is braced beyond the measure of his neighbours by an adamantine faith, or any of those consolations that come from the larger hope. Say what we will, there are moments, short though they may be, when the puzzle of life and destiny staggers the sense, when the shadow is cast and obscures the vision, and the best of us feel our weakness and loosening grip of the unseen. Then it is that the symbols of faith and reverence attest their power and efficacy, and brace the reeling spirit with a recovered sense of the breadth and continuity of man's consciousness of an inscrutable Power ruling our lives. This is the basic principle, the central theme, of all our creeds and dogmas - the great elemental truth, in which all their differences disappear. Let us, then, in no spirit of Pharisaism - for we speak as much for others as for ourselves - fix in the Constitution, this mark of the Omnipotent, this stamp of the Eternal, this testimony of feeling, or it may be but of desire, in which faith may find a recommendation, and doubt discover no offence.

The CHAIRMAN. - I would call the attention of the members of the committee to the fact that a number of amendments have been suggested by various Houses of Legislature which are in effect of a similar nature to the proposal of the honorable member (Mr. Glynn). I would, therefore, suggest that any honorable member wishing to bring the amendment into conformity with the language of any of these parliamentary suggestions should move an amendment upon it inserting the words suggested by the Houses of any of the colonies. All these suggestions are practically of the same effect, though expressed in different words.

Mr. HIGGINS (Victoria). - In Adelaide I voted against the insertion in the preamble of a form of words proposed by the honorable member (Mr. Glynn), and it is with regret that I shall have to repeat that vote at the present time, because the Constitution contains no provision to obviate the bad effect which the insertion of these words will have. I am glad that I am so far justified in my opposition to the proposal made by the honorable member in Adelaide by the fact that no Assembly and no person has suggested the insertion of the words which were then proposed to be inserted by the honorable member. I freely admit that the words which he now proposes to insert are not quite so objectionable, though I still think that the amendment could be improved upon. I say frankly that I should have no objection to the insertion of the words of this kind in the preamble, if I felt that in the Constitution we had a sufficient safeguard against the passing of religious laws by the Commonwealth. I shall, I hope, afterwards have an opportunity, upon the reconsideration of the measure, to bring before the Convention a clause modified to meet some criticisms which have been made on the point, and if I succeed in getting that clause passed it will provide this safeguard. I shall have an opportunity then of explaining how exceedingly important it is to have some such safeguard. There is no time for me now to go into an elaborate history of this question as far as the United States of America are concerned. I have investigated it with a great deal of care, and I can give the result of my investigations to honorable members, who, I hope, will not believe that I would mislead them if I could help doing so with regard to the effect of what has taken place there. Because they had no words in the preamble of the Constitution of the United States to the effect of these which the honorable member (Mr. Glynn) wishes to insert, Congress was unable to pass certain legislation in the direction of enforcing religion. There was a struggle for about thirty years to have some words of religious import inserted in the preamble. That struggle failed; but in 1892 it was decided by the Supreme Court that the people of the United States were a Christian people.

Mr. BARTON. - That decision was followed practically by the decision that they were a Christian people.

Mr. HIGGINS. - Yes. That decision was given in March or February, and four months afterwards it was enacted by Congress that the Chicago Exhibition should be closed upon Sundays, simply upon the ground that Sunday was a Christian day. The argument was that among a Christian nation, you should enforce Christian observances.

Mr. BARTON. - Could they not have closed the exhibition on Sundays without that enactment?

Mr. HIGGINS. - I think the honorable and learned member will bear me out in this, that there is nothing in the Constitution of the United States of America, even indirectly, suggesting a law of this sort. No doubt the state of Illinois could have passed such a law, because it has all its rights reserved. But there was nothing in the Constitution enabling the Congress to pass a law for the closing of the exhibition on Sunday. As soon as ever those parties who had been working for the purpose of getting Sunday legalized throughout the United States found that decision given in February, 1892, that "this is a Christian nation", they followed it up quickly, and within four months there was a law passed for the closing of the exhibition on Sunday.

Mr. WISE. - Was that held to be constitutional?

Mr. BARTON. - It has not been challenged yet.

Mr. HIGGINS. - It has been in force for five and a half or six years, and it was struggled against, as my honorable friend will know. There was a strong monetary interest against it, and they, no doubt, took advice, but I will say frankly that I am not aware that it has been held to be constitutional. I understand though that there has been no dispute among the legal men in that country as to its being constitutional. Honorable members will hardly realize how far the inferential powers have been extended in America. I should have thought it obvious, and I think Mr. Wise will agree with me, that the Congress had no power to pass a law of that sort.

Mr. WISE. - I admit that your statement puts a very different complexion on the matter.

Mr. HIGGINS. - I hope it does, because it will become a very important matter. I would have thought that it was not within the scope of Congress to pass a law, no matter how righteous, to close the exhibition on Sunday, but I find, on looking to a number of decisions in the United States, that it has been held again and again that, because of certain expressions, words, and phrases used in the Constitution, inferential powers are conferred upon the Congress that go beyond any dreams we have at present. I know that a great many people have been got to sign petitions in favour of inserting such religious words in the preamble of this Bill by men who know the course of the struggle in the United States, but who have not told the people what the course of that struggle is, and what the motive of these words is. I think the people of Australia ought to have been told frankly when they were asked to sign these petitions what the history in the United States has been on the subject, and the motive with which these words have been proposed. I think the people in Australia are as reverential as any people on the face of this earth, so I will make no opposition to the insertion of seemly and suitable words, provided that it is made perfectly clear in the substantive part of the Constitution that we are not conferring on the Commonwealth a power to pass religious laws. I want to leave that as a reserved power to the state, as it is now. Let the states have the power. I will not interfere with the individual states in the power they have, but I want to make it clear that in inserting these religious words in the preamble of the Bill we are not by inference giving a power to impose on the Federation of Australia any religious laws. I hope that I shall be excused for having spoken on this matter. I felt that it was only fair that honorable members should know that there is a danger in these words, if we are to look to the precedent of the United States. I will help honorable members in putting any suitable words provided that we have sufficient safeguards.

Mr. LYNE. - Will you explain, before you sit down, where the particular danger is?

Mr. HIGGINS. - The particular danger is this: That we do not want to give to the Commonwealth powers which ought to be left to the states. The point is that we are not going to make the Commonwealth a kind of social and religious power over us. We are going into a Federation for certain specific subjects. Each state at present has the power to impose religious laws. I want to leave that power with the state; I will not disturb that power; but I object to give to the Federation of Australia a tyrannous and overriding power over the whole of the people of Australia as to what day they shall observe for religious reasons, and what day they shall not observe for that purpose. The state of Victoria will be able to pass any Sunday law it likes under my scheme. It can pass any law of that sort now; but surely it is a proper thing for a state, and it is not a proper thing for the Commonwealth, to exercise this power. I feel that honorable members who value state rights reserved to the states, who value the preservation of the individuality of the states for state purposes, will agree with me that it is with the state we ought to leave this power, and that we ought not to intrust it to the Commonwealth. For instance, our factory laws are left to the state. Those laws provide for a certain number of hours of rest, and that employees shall not work on Sundays, and so forth. If we leave the factory laws to the state we should also leave this question of the observance of Sunday to the state. I will not take it from them. At the same time, I am not going, no matter what the consequences are, to help to instrust this power to the Commonwealth. I want the people of the different states to manage their own affairs as well as they can. I may say frankly that I, rightly or wrongly, am one of those who think that the Christian or religious observance is no good if it is enforced by law. I am one of those who think the religious observance is of no value unless it is the outcome of a man's own character, and the outcome of a man's own belief.

Mr. SYMON. - You do not want to keep it always stuck up in the form of a sentence in your bathroom.

Mr. HIGGINS. - My learned friend, I believe, is staying at the Melbourne Club, and I am glad that they have taken the opportunity to inculcate sound doctrine upon him.

Mr. WALKER. - Is not there an acknowledgment of the Almighty in the schedule of the Bill? Is not this perfectly consistent with the schedule?

Mr. HIGGINS. - No; I think the honorable member will see that a recital in the preamble to the Constitution is a very different thing from an oath which may be taken in a court of justice or anywhere else.

Mr. DOUGLAS. - You will find that you can make an affirmation without referring to Almighty God. Any person can make an affirmation who has no belief in Almighty God.

The CHAIRMAN. - I do not think the honorable member is in order in making a speech.

Mr. HIGGINS. - I thank the honorable member for being disorderly under the circumstances. I think there is a good deal of force in what he says, but I also see this, that the taking of an oath in a court of justice or on taking office is quite a different thing from having in a well-thought-out preamble to a Constitution any reference to religious belief.

Mr. WALKER. - It is prescribed in the schedule.

Mr. HIGGINS. - That may be, but a schedule is quite a different thing from a preamble.

Dr. QUICK (Victoria). - I have no doubt that the Convention ought to thank the honorable member (Mr. Higgins) for the warning he has thought fit to give; at the same time, I, for one, see no cause for fearing that any of the dangers he has suggested will arise from inserting these words in the Bill. He has said that under the American Constitution, in which no such words as these appear, certain legislation has been carried by Congress forbidding the opening of the Chicago Exhibition on a Sunday. If under a Constitution in which no such words as these appear such legislation has been carried, what further danger will arise from inserting the words in our Constitution? I do not see, speaking in ordinary language, how the insertion of such words could possibly lead to the interpretation that this is necessarily a Christian country and not otherwise, because the words "relying upon the blessing of Almighty God" could be subscribed to not only by Roman Catholics and Protestants, but also by Jews, Gentiles, and even by Mahomedans. The words are most universal, and are not necessarily applicable only to Christians. I see no reason whatever for fearing that any danger will arise from placing the words in the preamble. This is a Constitution in which certain powers are conferred on the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I do not know that the placing of these words in the preamble will necessarily confer on that Parliament any power to legislate in religious matters. It will only have power to legislate within the limits of the delegated authority, and the mere recital in respect to the Deity in the preamble will not necessarily confer on the Federal Parliament power to legislate on any religious matter. Whatsoever may have been the legislation of Congress as to the Chicago Exhibition, there may be reasonable grounds for doubting as to whether it may not be ultra vires. Mr. Higgins has vaguely alluded to certain words and expressions in the Constitution of the United States. I do not know what these words are which could have justified legislation, but in reference to this Bill I challenge any one to point out any clause which would justify the Federal Parliament in legislating on any religious matter. If there is such a clause in the Bill, then by all means strike it out or modify it, but, until Mr. Higgins can point to a clause in the Bill which will authorize the Federal Parliament to legislate on religious matters one way or the other, his apprehension as to dangers is altogether without foundation, and it should not in any way influence this committee in deciding on the question whether we should put in the preamble words simply recognising the existence of Almighty God and that reverential feeling to which the Deity is entitled.

I hope that after due consideration, and in the face of the strong recommendations of all the Parliaments of Australia, and the numerous and influential petitions which have been presented to the Convention by the inhabitants of Australia, honorable members will give more respect to the Parliaments and the people of Australia than to the warning held out by Mr. Higgins.

Mr. BARTON (New South Wales). - Before the amendment is put, I should like to say a few words in explanation of the position I hold. I am quite aware that since it was debated in Adelaide there has been considerable argument and a certain degree of warmth about this matter. Just as I thought that the mover of the amendment in Adelaide, which amendment was defeated, might well not press it to a division, so I had hoped that we should have had no amendment of this kind moved here. If such an amendment is to be made, I will say, at the outset, that the form of this one is the least objectionable which could be devised, for my friend (Mr. Glynn) consulted the Drafting Committee about the form of the amendment, and, so far as they in that capacity could offer any option, they thought it was as good a form as could be put in. But, with regard to the substance of the matter, I have all along thought that it is, to a certain extent, a danger to insert words of this kind in the preamble. Mr. Higgins has clearly put before us the difficulty which arose in the United States - a difficulty which arose out of a decision without any such words in the Constitution, which led to a decision and an enactment, and which it is probable we do not want to see arising under our Constitution. My honorable friend (Dr. Quick) has argued that if, in the absence of any such words in the Constitution of the United States such things could happen as have happened under that Constitution, our case will be no worse if we put words of this kind into the preamble of the Constitution of the Commonwealth. I am rather of the contrary opinion to that of my honorable and learned friend. I think that if there is a danger of a body of religious laws being passed or of decisions being given by a court, without words of religion in the forefront of the Constitution, in its very preamble, that danger, by every consideration of experience and common sense, would be increased by putting in an express amendment which might be construed as a peg on which to hang such further decision or such further enactment. The court, I know, in the case that was in question, went outside the Constitution for its material. It referred to the Declaration of Independence, which was the precursor of the Constitution that had been entirely swept away by the Constitution of the United States. It referred to the grants to the planters and to those who had taken up the plantations in America, as well as to the charters and enactments under which they were governed. The court referred to all those things, and to every piece of paper on which it could lay its hands, for the purpose of deciding that the United States was a religious nation, and inasmuch as these expressions, which were dug up by the court in grants, were used as much under a Catholic as under a Protestant regime, but under no other regime, they then decided that the United States were not only a religious nation, but also a Christian nation. Now, I think that those matters are better left in the hands of the states. The states have certain plenary powers, which we do not wish to cut down, except so far as may be necessary for the purpose of federal government. The states have power to impose Sunday observance laws. Each state - and it is only of states that the Commonwealth will be composed - has power to regulate these things within its own territory, and the territories of the states together make up the sum of the territory of the Commonwealth. So that there is power in existence to deal with these matters without duplicating that power. The danger is, if we are to pay any attention to the decisions in the United States, that the thing that was done in the United States is more likely to be done here if we duplicate that power, because the result will be a conflicting body of laws dealing with religious matters and the observance of the Sabbath. Now, I do not look on that prospect with any degree of pleasure; I do not think that that will be a state of things which will be desirable under our Constitution. I have no desire to add anything further, except that I do not wish to be understood as withdrawing from the opinion I expressed at Adelaide, but the views I expressed there, in opposition to a similar amendment, may have perhaps received some confirmation from the facts as to the United States enactments and decisions which Mr. Higgins has brought forward in the course of this debate, and which were mentioned partly by me some days ago, when speaking on another clause. I do not think there ought to be the slightest acrimony of any kind in a debate on this subject. It is really a pity that we have to vote on such a subject, but I feel quite sure that it will be debated in a spirit entirely reverential on both sides. For myself, I hope I have not introduced a word which would enable any one to say that I have dealt with this matter is any factious or party spirit, and any idea of faction or party must be eliminated from these proceedings. If a division is called for - and I must say that I do not like divisions on these questions - I shall, as a matter of consistency, vote as I did before, if Mr. Glynn persists in his amendment. At the same time, I must admit that I shall recognise the good intentions and high motives by which those who seek to introduce a declaration of this kind into the Constitution are actuated.

Mr. LYNE (New South Wales). - Having moved, in the New South Wales Parliament, a motion somewhat similar to the one now moved by Mr. Glynn, I took considerable interest in, and paid great attention to, the remarks which were made by Mr. Higgins, and I may say that I would not hesitate for a moment, if I thought there was any menace to the powers of the states in adopting this proposal, to vote in opposition to the way I voted previously on the subject. But I cannot see that there is any menace to the states at all, or that any power will be taken from the states by inserting this amendment in the preamble of the Constitution. As one honorable member - I think it was Dr. Quick - said, certain actions have been taken by the states in Congress where there is no mention of the Supreme Being in the preamble or in the Constititution at all; and, if, we leave this amendment out of the preamble, that power will be much the same as it is in the states. Now, all we do by this amendment is to define something more definite than has evidently been defined in the Constitution of the states. Remembering that the Federal Parliament will represent the various states to a very great extent, I think that anything that might be feared in the way Mr. Higgins suggested could be put on one side at once. Moreover, I recognise this fact - that the insertion of this amendment will assist very materially in the acceptance of the Constitution. It may be, and probably is, a matter of sentiment - I suppose none of us pretend to be actuated on a question of this kind other than by sentiment - but I feel convinced that the insertion of this amendment in the preamble will influence a large number of votes in favour of this Federation Bill. Not having heard anything to shake my belief that that will be so, I shall adhere to the vote that I gave on a previous occasion.

Mr. DOUGLAS (Tasmania). - When this subject was broached in Adelaide, I took the opportunity of stating that I could not see the utility of inserting these words in the preamble of the Commonwealth Bill, and my opionion has not in any way altered up to the present time. I should like to know what is the object honorable members have in view in desiring the insertion of these words? Do these words convey to the public mind any particular idea that their insertion in the preamble of this Bill would make us a religious people? The words in question are "humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God." Now, do not we all rely upon the blessing of Almighty God in our daily transactions? Certainly. But do we set forth that fact in all our letters and documents by which we communicate with one another? Certainly not. No doubt the supporters of this amendment desire to make the public believe or fancy that they will become a religious people if such words as these are put into the preamble of this Bill. Do we do this at the present time in our ordinary legislation? Do not we all know that it is a mockery that the House of Commons at the present time commences its sittings, day by day, by having prayers read in that assembly? The Speaker of the House of Commons reads the Lord's Prayer before proceedings are commenced, but it has grown into such a farce that nobody attends the House until the prayer is over. Do we want to introduce that system here?

Mr. PEACOCK. - It is done here.

Mr. DOUGLAS. - I believe that there are still some legislative assemblies in Australia where they commence the day's proceedings by reading the Lord's Prayer. It was originally done in Tasmania, but it was soon found out to be a perfect piece of mockery, and abandoned.

Mr. ISAACS. - Do not you have any reference to the Supreme Being in the Governor's speech in Tasmania?

Mr. DOUGLAS. - We used to have the Lord's Prayer read in the Legislative Council, but it became a matter of such indifference that the custom was given up. I do not know whether you have it in your Parliament in Victoria.

Mr. PEACOCK. - Yes; in our Legislative Council the President reads the Lord's Prayer.

Mr. DEAKIN. - And nearly all the members know it now.

Mr. DOUGLAS. - When any honorable member became a candidate for the position of representative of his colony in this Convention, did he go down on his knees and pray Almighty God to confer a blessing on him in order that he might secure a position here? Of course, we all have these good feelings in our minds when legislating here, as is shown when we come to anything which suggests brotherly feeling or action, and, therefore, why insert these words in the preamble to the Bill?

What is the object of inserting these words? Is it to make people believe that they will be more religious if the words are inserted? Shall we be more religious if we put them in? Will it have any effect whatever upon us? Why, it is all nonsense - a sham and a delusion - like many other things that have taken place here! I presume that I am ordinarily as religious as any member of this Convention, but I do not make a parade of it. I take my Sunday walks, but I do not do as the Quakers did, who said to his assistant -"John, if you have sanded the sugar and wetted the currants, you can now come in to prayers."

Mr. WALKER. - It was not a Quaker who said that.

Mr. DOUGLAS. - Well, it was somebody like the honorable member, then.

The CHAIRMAN. - Order.

Mr. DOUGLAS. - The honorable member presents a large petition, praying for the insertion of this amendment, and thinks he has done a great deal of good to the community by so doing. Now, does that do any good at all? Do we pay any attention to it? Dr. Quick says we all have some religious views, and even Hindoos and Mahomedans - although I presume there are very few Mahomedans here - even religious Hindoos and religious Mahomedans would not apply the words of this amendment in the same sense as we apply them, nor are they applied in the same sense by Christians of one character and Christians of another. And we know that there are at least about 120 different descriptions of Christians, and, it may be, many more. The insertion of these words would be a mockery, and that is the reason I voted against their insertion before. I want to be sincere, and I do not want to make the people believe by going into the street and saying - "I am a religious man," that, therefore, I am a religious man.

Mr. PEACOCK. - They would not believe you if you did.

Mr. DOUGLAS. - A man's actions and not his words denote what he is, and hypocrites in religious circles do more harm to religion than is done by persons outside religious circles. I oppose this amendment because I believe it will minister to hyprocrisy to put these words in the Bill. I sincerely and truthfully believe in the Almighty Power, but I do not wish to introduce any reference to that Power in the preamble to this Bill. You do not introduce it in your ordinary Acts of Parliament, and, therefore, why should you want to introduce it now? You know what happens in the House of Commons in England, as I have told you, and surely you do not want the same farce to be enacted here. I agree with our leader that we had better leave these things alone. I hope with him that a division will not be taken on this subject. Let every member of the Convention give his voice on the question; but let it end there. I do not think it is a matter in which, in a community like ours, a body like this Convention, which has been brought here for a particular purpose, should interfere. We should be travelling out of the range of the purpose for which we were sent here by inserting such words in the preamble to this Bill. If the question goes to a division, I shall vote against the amendment.

Sir JOHN DOWNER (South Australia). - I desire to say just a few words, because I think there is a more serious question involved than the mere insertion of the words of this amendment. I am sure that we all listened with great pleasure to the speech of Mr. Higgins on the subject. He reminded us of the decision in America that the Christian religion is a portion of the American Constitution, and of the enactments that were passed in consequence. I do not know whether it has occurred to honorable members that the Christian religion is a portion of the English Constitutition without any decision of the subject at all. It is part of the law of England which I should think we undoubtedly brought with us when we settled in these colonies. Therefore, I think we begin at the stage at which the Americans were doubtful, without the insertion of the words at all, and I would suggest to Mr. Higgins to seriously consider whether it will not be necessary to insert words distinctly limiting the Commonwealth's powers.

Mr. HIGGINS. - There are words printed in an amendment to that effect.

Sir JOHN DOWNER. - I feel more strongly than ever that that ought to be done, because I can very well understand the way in which the very persons who are presenting petitions and asking for this recognition would resent the consequences if they found that the religious control was taken away from the state and put into the Commonwealth. For my own part, I think it is of little moment whether the words are inserted or not. The piety in us must be in our hearts rather than on our lips. Whether the words are inserted or not, I think they will have no meaning, and will have no effect in extending the power of the Commonwealth; because the Commonwealth will be from its first stage a Christian Commonwealth, and, unless its powers are expressly limited, may legislate on religious questions in a way that we now little dream of.

Mr. REID (New South Wales). - I desire simply to say that I strongly support the position of Mr. Glynn.

The amendment was agreed to.
The preamble, as amended, was agreed to.

Back to CHAPTER 10 Go to CHAPTER 12