Under Most Peculiar Circumstances: The Church Acts in the Australian Colonies as a Study of Plural Establishment

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Abstract

Plural establishment is a unique form of state-religion relationship involving the recognition and support of multiple faiths by the state. As an unusual form of state- religion relationship, its presence in early colonial Australia highlights the unique nature of this type of relationship in Australia. This article, after developing a theoretical framework for the concept of plural establishment, applies that framework to the various state aid schemes which operated in the Australian colonies in the nineteenth century. Consistent with existing scholarship, it finds that these funding schemes, often referred to as the Church Acts, constituted plural establishment. The nature of the plural establishment, however, was subtly different in each colony. As such, the article provides a more nuanced picture of the state- religion relationship in Australia during the plural establishment period, enhancing our understanding of the interaction between the government and the church during this important early period of Australia's history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-52
JournalLaw & History
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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