The Australian Christian Lobby welcomes the decision by the Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Bowen earlier this week to allow Bibles and other holy books to be given as gifts at citizenship ceremonies.

Mr Bowen released an updated Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code (see here) which will allow religious organisations to supply Bibles to ceremony organisers.

“New citizens will not feel obliged to take them if they don’t want to. Consistent with existing policy, holy books are not a requirement for citizenship ceremonies and will not be provided directly to new citizens as official gifts by the Australian Government,” Mr Bowen said.

Previously there had been confusion over whether the Bible and other holy books could be given out at citizenship ceremonies.

Mr Bowen said holy books were not considered to be appropriate official gifts after changes were made by the Howard Government in 2003.

Liberal Senator Guy Barnett said Labor’s changes to the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code in 2008 specifically banned the giving of bibles or other holy book as gifts at citizenship ceremonies.

The announcement this week clears up the confusion on the issue and allows Bibles to be given as gifts to Australia’s new citizens.