The ABC recently launched a portal for Religion and Ethics and, as should be expected, it's come under fire with the usual line of argument from non-religious people: Why should my taxes pay for religion?
Now I'm in favour of the ABC portal, and not just because it's being edited by someone I know. Here are two reasons why I think it's worthwhile.
First, the portal is about coverage of religious and ethical issues, not the propagation of religion itself. Articles are written both from within and without the religious point of view. Up front is a piece by Rowan Williams as well as the question of whether it is ethical for government to fund religion. Taken individually, both articles advocate a position on religion, but taken together they show a diversity of opinion about a related topic.
From what I know about the editor - a theologian who is critical of church and state equally - and the little I know about the ABC charter, a biased approach to coverage of religion and ethics would just not eventuate. For as long as religion and ethics are part of the life of people in Australia, there should be coverage of it.
And that leads to my second reason to have the portal. The argument that the portal is an abuse of tax dollars looks like this, "My tax dollars pay for X despite my opposition to X." In light of what I've written above, perhaps it should be, "My tax dollars pay for coverage of X despite my opposition to X." If I look at the ABC site, I see coverage of a wide variety of things. Some interest me, some don't. Some excite me, some disgust me. Nonetheless, they are all features of Australian society and the issues they contain should be covered by the national broadcaster. Certainly there will be a threshold of interest (I'm sure there won't be a portal for flower arranging) but for features of significance like sport, children and environment there is enough societal interest to warrant this expenditure. Imagine a person who is opposed to further population of the planet and who thinks we should stop having children. If the argument that "my tax dollars should not be spent on things I oppose" were valid, there would be no 'children' section on the ABC website. Australia has children all over the place, so the ABC has a section for children. Australia has religious activity all over the country, so the ABC has a section for religion.