Religion and Civil Society

The Centre for Independent Studies’ Religion and Civil Society program investigates the implications of a liberal understanding of freedom for religion in civil society.

We seek to analyse the extent and nature of religion as a form of social capital in the public sphere.

Anti-Semitism and religious hatred in Australia have been recent topics of research, along with broader questions as to the meaning and value of religion in Australia.

Featured Publication


Acton Lecture 2017: Civic Virtues and the Politics of ‘Full Drift Ahead’
Iain Benson
19 June 2017 | OP155

Today almost everyone affirms the importance of ‘values’ but few would insist these are shared moral essentials.  How is it that the most common term of our political and even private moralities became so relativistic and what, in anything, could be offered as an alternative?…

The Tyranny of Tolerance. Threats to Religious Liberty in Australia
Peter Kurti
18 June 2017 | Connorcourt Publishing

It was a confident expectation for more than a century that religion — its beliefs, doctrines and institutions — would atrophy in the face of growing secularisation. But not only has traditional Christianity survived in liberal western societies; other faiths, most conspicuously Islam, have increasingly…

Terror in the Name of God: Confronting acts of religious violence in a liberal society
Peter Kurti
10 June 2017 | OP154

Acts of violence perpetrated in the name of religion have been reported with great prominence in recent times. Scholars of religion continue to weigh whether people who kill or injure others are really doing so in the name of their God, as they claim; or…

Rediscovering Humility: Religious Freedom in a 21st Century Pluralist Society
Tim Wilson
05 December 2016 | OP151

Religious liberty is central to the Australian way of life. It is enshrined in the Australian Constitution. But it is not the only freedom that matters. There is a rising tension between accommodating differing freedoms in 21st century Australia. The changing face of Australia continues…

The Battle of Ideas: can the beliefs that feed terrorism be changed?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Denis Dragovic, Tanveer Ahmed, Peter Kurti
19 September 2016 | OP149

Defeating violent Islamic extremism has been a high priority for all western countries, including Australia, since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. However, the threat we face doesn’t so much come from zealots flying planes into buildings as from young people barely out of childhood and…

Media & Commentary

Even if it is rubbish, religion should still be as free as possible
Robert Forsyth
02 March 2018 | Ideas@TheCentre

Despite some attempts to the contrary, it would be a mistake to treat the “Expert Panel to examine whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion”…

Peter Kurti: Do we really need laws to protect religious freedom?
Peter Kurti
23 February 2018 | Daily Telegraph

BALANCING the right to relig­ious liberty against other rights and freedoms ­enjoyed by Australians is likely to be one of the biggest political challenges facing the Turnbull government in 2018.…

Religion is no excuse for anti-vax nonsense
Peter Kurti
28 December 2017 | DAILY TELELGRAPH

Attempts by anti-vax campaigners to invoke religion as a way of dodging vaccinations for their children is an excellent example of the limits the state rightly puts on religious freedom.…

Wedding cake still half-baked
Robert Forsyth
08 December 2017 | IDEAS@THECENTRE

The "Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017” deals only with religious freedom for religious celebrants and organisations involved in the actual solemnising of a marriage. More is expected…

Protection of religious freedoms helps maintain diversity
Peter Kurti
28 November 2017 | The Australian

Campaigns in the same-sex marriage survey have helped Australians think deeply about one of the principal institutions underpinning our society. With 61.6% of people in favour of changing the meaning…