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Monday, 21 May 2018
Page: 3836

Australian Bureau of Statistics

Dear Mrs Wicks

Thank you for your correspondence of 14 February about the petition requesting that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) redefine Religion.

As outlined in the ABS Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), a precise definition of the concept of religion is difficult because of the intangible and wide-ranging nature of the topic. However, generally a religion is regarded as a set of beliefs and practices, usually involving acknowledgment of a divine or higher being or power, by which people order the conduct of their lives both practically and in a moral sense.

This approach to defining religion in terms of encompassing a mixture of beliefs, practices, and a supernatural being giving form and meaning to existence, was used by the High Court of Australia in 1983 in the case of Church of the New Faith v Commissioner for Pay-roll Tax (Vic) 154 CLR 120, 136.

As part of that ruling, it was stated: For the purposes of the law, the criteria of religion are twofold: first, belief in a Supernatural Being, Thing or Principle; and second, the acceptance of canons of conduct in order to give effect to that belief though canons of conduct which offend against the ordinary laws are outside the area of any immunity, privilege or right conferred on the grounds of religion.

The scope of the ASCRG is all religions and subsets of religions as defined above. I trust this information will be of assistance to you.

Yours sincerely

from the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, The Hon Michael Sukkar MP