The theological underpinnings of Australia’s constitutional separation of church and state provision

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The Australian Constitution contains two provisions concerning religion: a reference to “Almighty God” in the preamble and a provision denying the Federal Parliament power to legislate in respect of religion. The inclusion of those two provisions by the National Australasian Convention, which met from 1897 to 1898 to draft the Australian Constitution, was in large measure a result of political campaigns undertaken by competing religious groups. The first group, the Councils of Churches in each colony representing the main Protestant denominations, agitated for a constitutional “recognition” of God. The second group, the Seventh Day Adventists, campaigned against any constitutional recognition of God and for the inclusion of a provision limiting the Federal Government’s power in respect of religion. The Adventists held fears that constitutional “recognition” of God would empower the federal parliament to pass nation-wide Sunday observance laws. This article explores the theological and legal thinking of the Seventh Day Adventists to explain how they came to believe what, on a strict legal analysis, was highly implausible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalAustralian Journal of Politics and History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018

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