The rightful place of God(s) in Australian society
From my observation it is never Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims or even Scientologists who get upset when a nativity scene goes up in a chicken shop at Christmas.
I am not surprised, because as people of faith they understand that their religious freedom is only as safe as it is for those who hold a different belief.
For this reason I have always been perplexed as a professed Christian by objections to Australian women wearing a hijab in public. I recently walked the Kokoda trail with one young Australian woman who wore it the entire way – quite an effort.
So every time a Christmas tree goes up in a mall and some secular fundamentalist calls for the chainsaw, they should speak for themselves and not seek to appropriate the cause of religious freedom for my Muslim or Hindu brothers and sisters in faith.
In Australia, faith and religion should be open topics. Yet, armed with a flawed understanding of the separation of church and state, there is a swelling chorus who believe your faith can play no role in public life or political debate (just read the comments in response to the pieces by David Gazard and Greg Clarke in The Punch last week).
Contrary to views of fundamentalist secularism, the separation of church and state was all about protecting the church, and more specifically the individual’s own faith, from State power, not the reverse. If only this had held true in Nazi Germany, communist Europe or China.
Jefferson put it this way: “’make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’, thus building a wall of separation between Church and State”.
To bastardise and verbal this doctrine to suppress the influence of faith on political debate in Australia undermines both our religious freedom and liberal democracy.
US Senator Joe Lieberman said that the US Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not from religion. The same holds for our democracy. We have no state church in Australia. However, we do have church, mosque, synagogue and temple communities that have every right to express whatever views they like, subject to the laws of our land and with respect for our cultural traditions and heritage.
Let’s not forget that the same federation fathers who enshrined freedom of religion in our Constitution saw no conflict in acknowledging our religious heritage in the same document. They wrote in the preamble “whereas the people .. humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth…”
The attack on faith is designed to intimidate faith communities into political silence. Many Christians and church leaders today shy away from speaking out and becoming involved in politics for fear that they or their church will be publicly vilified, labelled as partisan, or assigned to a pejorative stereotype imported from the US, which has no parallel in Australia.
If any ‘religious’ right exists in Australian politics, you will not find it in the Church. I would also be very surprised if true religion had any influence over it. And I say this as someone who holds very strong pro life and marriage views.
Then there are the efforts made to weaken faith based institutions through the use of anti discrimination and vilification laws to tell churches what they can teach in their schools, what they can say in their pulpits and how they reach out to help people in their communities. Just wait until they get a Bill of Rights. In Victoria they are currently contemplating laws to prevent Christian schools from their right to exclusively employ Christian teachers.
Part of the problem with the faith and politics debate is the superficial understanding of today’s church community. People of faith are interested in a lot more issues than is generally reported or understood. Faith inspires passion and commitment equally on issues of poverty and looking after creation as it continues to do on the big moral questions, such as the sanctity of life and marriage.
The other challenge is the propensity to confuse engagement with political debate as blind partisanship. There is no block Christian or any other religious vote out there. Surely we can be more sophisticated than that. After all the Church is not the trade union movement.
William Wilberforce acted on his faith through his direct involvement in politics and rid the world of the slave trade of his day. Yet political expression does not always require you to pick a side and run for parliament.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was one of most passionate political activists of the last century, yet he was never a member of a political party. He stood up for justice and would not take off his ‘robes’ to do It, even when the ANC asked him to do so when he chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In that role he was as tough on the abuses of the ANC as he was on the agents of the former regime.
Thank God Wilberforce and Tutu chose not to be intimidated by those who say that men and women of faith have no right to bring their religion into politics.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…