Atheist leader’s cameo in human rights campaign video follows NSW government’s decision to block him from new body

Si Gladman / 28 November 2023

An atheist leader has featured in a national campaign video vouching for the right to freedom not to have a religion as a human right just days after being blocked from a New South Wales government committee due to his beliefs.

In a cameo role in a new video for the Australian Human Rights Commission, Sydney Atheists President Steve Marton (pictured) stated that, to him, human rights were about being able to “leave my religion or follow none at all”.

The video was published last week ahead of the 75-year anniversary of the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December.

The timing is embarrassing for the Minns government, which earlier this month rejected Mr Marton’s nomination to represent the state’s non-religious and ex-religious population on the state’s new Faith Affairs Council.

The 16-member Faith Affairs Council will consist mostly of male religious clerics and will have a direct line to government ministers to advise on policies that benefit religious communities.

A screengrab of the Human Rights Commission video featuring Steve Marton.

Multiculturalism minister Steve Kamper has failed to deliver on his promise – given in a letter to the Rationalist Society of Australia earlier this year – that the new advisory body would reflect a “diversity of viewpoints”.

The introduction to the Human Rights Commission’s video says: “No person of any background should have their human rights infringed”. It also says the commission calls for equal rights to be “upheld for all”.

In a statement this week, the Atheist Foundation of Australia said it was “disturbed by this unexpected religious discrimination” against Mr Marton.

The Minns government stated that 12 of the 16 committee members would reflect the diversity found in the most recent 2021 Census data. Yet, as the Atheist Foundation of Australia pointed out, the Faith Affairs Council has failed to provide any representation to the single largest group in the Census – those marking ‘no religion’.

In a statement on the Atheist Foundation of Australia’s website, Mr Marton said the outcome was a “setback” to achieving a more balanced discourse on key social issues within the government.

“I thought it only reasonable that there should be some non-religious representation to provide a modicum of equity, transparency, and democracy.  Instead, this is an inappropriate form of religious discrimination in its own right,” he said.

Si Gladman is the Campaigns & Communications Coordinator for the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.

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