Queensland Judgments
Authorised Reports & Unreported Judgments
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Bell v State of Queensland

Unreported Citation:

[2022] QSC 80


Some novel issues arose in this unusual recent matter. The applicant, a member of an unincorporated association known as the “Noosa Temple of Satan”, sought judicial review of the Queensland Department of Education's determination that it was not a religious denomination or society and accordingly not permitted to provide religious instruction in State schools to students. His Honour dismissed the application, which in his view had resulted in a “deplorable waste of the resources of the State”, noting that it appeared the attempt to obtain approval to provide religious instruction had been a mere political stunt.

Burns J

6 May 2022

Essentially, s 76(1) Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 gives to “any minister” of a “religious denomination or society” or an “accredited representative” of a “religious denomination or society” the entitlement to provide religious instruction to students at a State school who are members of that denomination or society. Here, the applicant sought a declaration under s 30 Judicial Review Act 1991 to the effect that the Noosa Temple of Satan was in fact a religious denomination or society for the purposes of s 76(1) Education (General Provisions) Act 2006. [19].

The evidence

The evidence included a series of affidavits, various recordings and two published articles. Importantly the evidence revealed that:

  1. the Temple had originated in response to a religious discrimination Bill introduced into Federal Parliament [29];
  2. the founder of the Temple regarded Satanism as a “very effective political tool” [21];
  3. there was no evidence of any common belief held by its members; [26]
  4. the Temple did not believe in Satan or indeed hold any religious beliefs; [30]–[32], [34], [37]
  5. there were only three members of the Temple (albeit it was contended that there were many more). [29].

Was the Temple a religious denomination or society?

In The Church of the New Faith v The Commissioner of Pay-Roll Tax (Vic) [1983] HCA 40; (1983) 154 CLR 120 the High Court held that “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.” In that decision the court also stressed that there must be “a real connexion between a person’s belief in the supernatural and particular conduct in which that person engages” and accordingly, “mere ritual … devoid of religious motivation, would be a charade”. (at [135] and [140]).

In the current matter his Honour deemed the Temple’s efforts to meet the legal criteria “a jumble of confected nonsense”. [45]. He noted that it had scant membership [46] and no tangible connection to anything connected to religion- let alone any evidence of a shared belief in a supernatural being, thing or principle, or any common element pertaining to religion. Overall, his Honour’s perception was that the Temple existed “to push a political barrow”. [47].


Given the above, the application was accordingly dismissed. [51]. His Honour also ruled that the founder of the Temple show cause as to why a copy of the documentation relevant to the hearing of the application should not be provided to the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Commissioner of the Queensland Police Service to determine whether a prosecution should be commenced in relation to an affidavit he had affirmed and/or the evidence he gave at the hearing, aspects of which his Honour did not regard as truthful. [50].

A Jarro

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