A Republic? – YES; a Christian Republic? – NO
By Brian Morris
So where is the roadblock to an Australian republic? Too many have assumed, for too long, it was simply hereditary monarchy – once Queen Elizabeth had passed the bejewelled orb and sceptres to Charles the road was then clear.
Incontrovertibly, the need to precisely frame a sound referendum question is crucial – together with a weather eye to good ‘timing’. But that’s NOT the issue. There are three obstacles which currently preclude Australia from becoming fully independent. They are; the Voice, raw politics, and corporate Christianity. More on that shortly.
Conversely, the public at large want a republic, with the latest figures coming from the Secular Association of NSW (SANSW) who commissioned a national poll, in mid-April, through the reputable YouGov research group.
Significantly, every generational category – from Gen Z through to Boomers and ‘Silents’ (over-70) – showed majority support for a republic. Only 24 per cent were opposed, with 53 per cent in support, and 23 per cent who were unsure – but that figure may have resulted from a question perhaps too bold for some moderate Christians.
“Do you agree or disagree that an Australian republic should be entirely secular and not provide taxpayer-funded grants, tax exemptions, as well as exceptions to discrimination law for religious groups.”
Max Wallace, Secretary of SANSW, pointed to another YouGov survey in February this year which showed 53 per cent agreed to the additional issue to separating religion from government. He said, “these surveys add to the thought that Australian public opinion has shifted to a more progressive place after the 2022 federal election.”
Which again begs the question of where the roadblocks are. First is “The Voice”, which currently has broad majority support. However, with the “No” case being driven from the right it remains unclear what the final referendum outcome will be.
Nevertheless, it is crystal clear what the prime minister’s sequence of priorities really are. In The Guardian on 3rd May he said, “… my priority is constitutional recognition [of Indigenous Australians] – I can’t imagine … as was suggested by some … that we should be having another referendum on the republic before that occurs.”
So what happens if The Voice referendum fails? Will Albanese focus on a republic? Hell will likely freeze over first.
Raw politics is the second roadblock. Coming from the same Guardian piece, Anthony Albanese said he doesn’t want to be a prime minister who “presides over just constitutional debates”, warning republicans in Australia that a referendum is not “imminent”. The PM argues the economy, climate change, and perhaps knitting will come first.
Albanese also confirmed that, despite being a “lifelong republican”, he has sworn allegiance to the new king Charles in the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. As a Catholic, that would also sit uncomfortably with the PM, as Charles is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England – the titular head of that Church.
Roadblock number three is surely Christianity, which flows smoothly from Australia’s allegiance to king Charles – via our prime minister. That makes a republican referendum problematic for the Catholic Albanese. And Christian churches here see God’s hand in the Coronation, with its opulence, pomp and pageantry – and riven through with the entire playbook of the Christian faith. Even the ABC and SBS went overboard with their obsequious coverage.
This is why a “genuine” Australian republic is tragically so far away. Religion and conservatism go hand in hand. It has aways been so! So, while Christianity is in rapid decline among the populace, it is the church power brokers, the influencers, and the political manipulators that stand in the way of a republic.
Meanwhile the anointed religious organisations and their PR consultants continue to walk the corridors of both state and federal parliaments. It is a source of power that is made easier with so many of our politicians – and senior bureaucrats – being practicing Christians.
Case in point. Examples are numerous but one contemporary issue illustrates the influence that church leaders have on religious politicians. The fresh NSW Catholic premier, Chris Minns, has replaced Opus Dei premier, Dominic Perrottet, only to set up a new multifaith religious advisory group.
The Sydney Criminal Lawyers (SCL) ran the story online, headed in part; “Time to De-Christianise Parliament”. It also quotes the Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) asking ethical questions on how these on-going religious privileged continue to marginalise the non-religious.
SCL includes quotes from NSW Greens MLC Abigail Boyd (who also moved a motion for an alternative to parliamentary prayers). They reported that; “Boyd does expect resistance … especially amongst the disproportionate number of members who are of the Christian faith.” It is also true of most Australian parliaments.
This is NOT to deny MPs their faith – rather, it is whether their faith drives their own personal agenda!
It is quite misleading to quote Census 2021 that shows 43.9 per cent as “affiliated” Christians. That figure includes the 25 per cent of “social” and “notional” Christians. But problems of religious influence in politics come mainly from committed “regular” and “devout” MPs who tend to covertly weaponise their religion.
Those quoted religious categories (and the raw statistics) come from the 152-page academic research report, commissioned by the RSA, and titled; “Religiosity in Australia”. See page 22 – but read it all.
We saw overt examples of predatory Christianity from MPs such as Scott Morrison, Tony Abbott and others. But the problem of defending progressive social policy comes from covert parliamentarians of devout faith. Their political agenda is to overturn secular legislation – just as the US Christian right killed off Roe vs Wade.
There is a section on all parliamentary websites for MPs to reveal their religion. Most avoid any display of openness and honesty about their religious leanings, so the public at large remains blind to religious influence.
That needs to change. Our democratic structure is fragile – and America demonstrates almost daily how religion can subvert a viable democracy. It matters not that an IPSOS poll in 2016 showed that 78 per cent of Australians wanted to “separate religion from the business of government.” But who’s listening?
Until we have secular parliaments there will be no secular republic. And Australia will remain a Christian theocracy – which is not so very different (politically speaking) from an Islamic theocracy; only with less tyranny.
Brian Morris is a former Journalist and Public Relations professional and the author of Sacred to Secular, a critically acclaimed analysis of Christianity, its origins and the harm that it does. You can read more about him here.
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18 commentsLogin here Register here
Sorry, “Hell will likely freeze over first” doesn’t sound very secular and if we were to momentarily believe hell exists, where’s the proof it is not already at a chilly 2.7 degrees Kelvin (temperature of space).
What a garbled rant to wake up to on a Saturday morning 🙄
I’m no fan of Albanese but I do agree The Voice is more important than the Republic. The majority of us live reasonable lives and can continue to do so for a bit longer. But every day we delay doing something for our Indigenous population is another day of the calamities that befell them with the arrival of “Australia”.
Whatever…. to this author, as to Thorpe and Price, I say, whatever you ‘want’, it’s The Voice that is on the table.
This article has prompted a new thought: if The Voice fails, how many Indigenous people might vote against a referendum in a it-for-tat response. It might not be noble but it would certainly be a human, gut, response.
And oh God, do I get tired of the garbled nonsense from atheists.
Christians are anti- republicans because of their allegiance to the monarchy through Albanese’s declaration of loyalty to Charles III? Spare me!
Christians are not a monolithic bloc. Many, even most these days perhaps, come from places that have no historic link to the monarchy, or from former colonial countries where the memories of monarchy are not happy ones.
And Irish Catholics as monarchists? What bit of history shows this to be likely?
Then there are differences between churches and “churches”. The latter derive directly from or are copies of US inventions of the 19th and 20th century “get rich quick through the bible” schemes. No doubt some good and well-intentioned people are members. But look at the modern day wealth creation and ask where are their good works? I’d be genuinely interested to know the answer because I don’t see much that’s Christian in those sects.
The mainstream churches on the other hand, certainly give power to the hierarchy at the top. But, in spite of their very obvious flaws and criminality, there are also many good works, spread right through the community, open to everyone – even atheists. On the whole these churches tend to be historically asset rich and currently cash poor, with a few obvious exceptions.
At individual level, someone claiming to be Christian or being labelled as one doesn’t make them Christian. By their fruits you shall know them.
Re our politicians in particular, keeping refugees locked up is decidedly unchristian, as is keeping the unemployed and pensioners below poverty level, as is making sure their mates make money and they themselves are generously rewarded for doing so. A “practising” as opposed to a nominal Christian doesn’t do those things.
On the other hand, there are all those Christians, a few of whom go to church, who are doing good at all levels of society. There is the Uniting Church which from the top down supports women, the downtrodden, refugees and the LGBTIQ+ community. Or there’s the Catholic Church which supports the downtrodden and refugees but whose members, in spite of the hierarchy, promote the rights and welfare of women and the LGBTIQ+ community… the large Catholic vote for same sex marriage is a classic example.
It’s very easy to do as Dawkins and his ilk do, set-up a seriously flawed straw man, say “this is Christianity” and shoot it down. Like all stereotypes, there is some truth in it. But it ignores too much to be valid or the whole story. That Christianity is a major block to voting for a republic is just another fallacy.
Or if that is true, the arguments are elsewhere because they’re certainly not here.
Or perhaps, one exception. In that first italicised paragraph, the Republic is bracketed with three other separate issues. Designed to fail, as was John Howard’s effort.
Churches and religious groups have a legal right to exist. Why should they be barred, in the constitution no less, from receiving grants which meet whatever criteria that government decides? It’s hard to see any Christian voting for that one.
Time for me to unsubscribe from The AIMN again to escape the bigots for a while.
margcal: That’s quite a rant too. Shame that you’ve missed the point/s. The Voice and rank-and-file Christians are not the problem here. So who does that leave in the frame? Work it out.
Excellent article Brian
Does Australia need to be out from under the, albeit vague” control of britain? The, ha, “mutha country”?
Most certainly. If only to rid ourselves of the enormous expense of keeping some glorified pompous arshole in digs while there are so many people struggling to find a decent cardboard box each night.
back when the lying rodent kept his erectoral promise of holding a referendum on the matter, a cunninge planne, crafted to sink the project by a fella who is both a devout catholic and a skirt-tugging monarchist, offfered us not a pick a side, but a first-past-the-post three way tussle, which left the 60+percent who were sure about a Republic having to decide on the day what it’s format would be. The 40ish% of the staus quo-ers won the vote. Well Gollly, saaargeant”. So nothing changed. Our eyebrowed eyesore was new to Parliament when Gough was sacked by queenie’s stand-in, but he obviously saw the benefits of having a go to glove-puppet if things start to go south for the “people who matter”
There is a book titled “god in the lodge”, which details the religiosity of our various pm’s. Most of them seem to be, or have been, micks. It is a frustrating read. Religion in parliament seems to be a pre-requisite for anyone with aspiration beyond “doing what is right for my electorate and Australia”. If nothing else, a “belief” in a spiritinthesky from the said members ensures that tax free status, and donations at will from We the Voter will keep flowing, mostly unchecked, and mostly to those who need them the least.
The upcoming Referendum on “The Voice” is Important. BIG LETTERS Important, and it HAS to succeded. For Australia.
Getting, having, a “Voice” to parliament is not going to fix everything. I do not believe that any normal person thinks that it will.
But it will be a new beginning. It will show the No’s that Australia gives a shit. About ALL of us.
It might also be a new beginning for We the Voter. So that we can ALL stand together for what is proper.
Against the slanted playing fields of money and religion and power that deny all of the rest of us a decent living.
Ken: Thank you, it’s an issue the public needs to talk about continually.
New Bruce: Well said. We support The Voice totally but our main concern is how well the “No’ campaign is financed — and who their secret financiers really are.
Tyranny is defined mostly as “cruel and oppressive government”. It’s hard to deny Afghanistan, Iran and others fall into that category — but equally, non-Islamic dictatorships such as China and Russia, which is Russian Orthodox (Christian) and increasingly popular. America is close to being a Christian theocracy too (viz: their religiously stacked Supreme Court and Roe vs Wade). Australia is currently regarded more a “soft” theocracy, but we’re sliding steadily downwards toward the US.
If you can swallow the garbled nonsense in the christian bible, there is nothing that any atheist is capable of saying that should be too much for you to handle.
‘It is a source of power that is made easier with so many of our politicians – and senior bureaucrats – being practicing Christians.’
Apparently similar in media, why or how in these cohorts are so many practising Christians vs. far fewer in general society?
Brian Morris, “ Tyranny is defined mostly as “cruel and oppressive government”
True, that is how Tyranny is mostly perceived, but that is just another corruption of the language as a result of ignorance and constant misuse. The word comes from the ancient Greeks. The tyrants that emerged in the various Greek city states were frequently heroes of the people seen as liberators from the cruelty and oppression of authorised, entitled rulers. A tyrant is one who takes control because they can, which usually means they have the overwhelming support of the people or command of an army to back up their claim, like Napoleon Bonaparte when he declared himself emperor of France, but they they don’t have the legal entitlement to succeed to that position. Tyranny can be benevolent and it can also be oppressive, but it should not be assumed automatically as bad thing. Assess the nature of the tyranny and then apply an appropriate adjective that fits. The word only indicates the manner in which control is achieved not how that control is exercised.
margcal: “unsubscribe from The AIMN again to escape the bigots”. Really! In that case, to be tsafe, don’t look in any mirrors then.
The death, pain and suffering caused in the name of religion over the millennia is almost incomprehensible. For Christianity, all because of “belief” in some stories collected over a couple of thousand years and compiled in a book. What was the probability of translation errors and embellishments occurring? It wasn’t zero. Were there competing versions of the various events? We are unlikely to find them the more time passes. Other religions have different foundations.
Believe what you want, but please don’t expect to get paid by the tax payers or be entitled to more credence/respect by forming a religion.
That we will become a republic is a given : it is an evolutionary process and will take place as soon as we have the will to drive the process.
Inevitably it will be a secular republic recognising and embracing the individual freedom of religious choice that rests with, but is not forced upon, the populace.
The major stumbling block is the task of completely overhauling our Constitution which is groaning with irrelevance and obsolescence. We need a national constitutional conference to commence the work of redrafting our constitution which must incorporate a Bill of Rights.
The Voice issue has probably set us back being treated as a single issue. A complete constitutional overhaul could easily have recognised first nations people as part of our move to a secular republic.
It’s good that we are talking about these things.
An example of the power of magical thinking, where the capture of peoples’ imagination in the name of God or Christ has lead only to tragedy, suffering, sadness, mourning. All too familiar, unfortunately.
The main issue I find is not so much christian’s per se but the rabid (right wing) evangelicals and others of their ilk who have this notion that they are the CHOSEN ONES to rule over all by the magical bearded sky fairy. Saint Scummo and his cronies ring a bell?
While we are discussing constitutional models, constitutional reform and tyrannies, let’s talk about the author’s reference to China as a tyranny.
China has a democratic system that is reviled in the West because it is not based on the Western model. The Western model began with the Magna Carta, a document designed to protect the property rights of the aristocracy. That priority still dominates Western democracy today, and is the cause of most problems today.
Chinese democracy on the other hand, emphasises the power of the people both constitutionally, and in practice. If that comes as a surprise to you, it’s because our news media is controlled by those whose sole interest is the protection of their property rights.
Unlike the multi-party electoral politics in many Western countries, where parties focus primarily on gaining votes with various promises and defeating their rivals, China’s democracy runs through all processes, including elections, decision-making, management and supervision. This is assisted and informed by the world’s highest use of public surveys, and is more robust as the participants come from all walks of life, not confined to a small elite group of the rich and the powerful. Speaking of which, in China it’s OK to become rich as long as you don’t try for powerful as well. As Jack Ma can attest.
As you can imagine, with a huge population China has a huge bureaucracy, and they have come up with a unique way to minimise the corruption that is a feature of every bureaucracy.
Candidates for a civil service career must have a high IQ, and sit a gruelling 3 day exam. Those that succeed are given career path options, and those that choose the leadership track are promptly dispatched to the nation’s poorest villages with the vague instruction to double their residents’ incomes. Those who succeed are transferred to the opposite side of the country and asked to repeat their performance for an entire county. That’s how Xi started. That’s how they all start.
And that’s why they have been able to pull billions out of poverty while incomes in the West have stagnated at best.
Compare the Chinese system of developing leaders, with the Western system. That’s why we end up with Bo-Jos, Morrisons, Trumps and Bidens. Space does not permit me to go on.
There is one stipulation to this system that might be described as authoritarian. While allowing alternative political parties, the CCP insists on sole management of the process. But the success of the process has ensured public support that Western politicians can only dream of.
@ Margcal: Why unsubscribe?? You rob your self of the delight of dispatching your critics (if any) to the WPB …..
HELLS NO, to a christian republican, that’d be like the apocalyptic HELL-ON-EARTH for ALL of us. I’d rather a Labor Republican anyday. As long as Agent Kay, hasn’t forgotten to leave a tip.
Men In Black reference, BTW.
Uhm ….. What is the difference between an American Christian theocracy and a traditional Islamic theocracy???
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