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Bernardi, Trump and ‘religious freedom’

By Brian Morris

Religious institutions will feel a pressing need to regain the initiative following damning revelations from the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse. With renewed calls for a parliamentary conscience vote on marriage equality — and foreshadowed legislation on voluntary euthanasia in three states — one may assume the churches will resume their demands for greater ‘Religious Freedom’ to speak out on these ‘moral issues’.

Christian lobbyists might understandably see a glimmer of salvation in Cory Bernardi’s new Australian Conservative Party. Bernardi is a Donald Trump devotee and it is likely that the South Australian senator will embrace the US President’s program to outlaw abortion, repeal marriage equality laws and provide greater Religious Liberty for Christian organisations.

Clerics here can be expected to embrace similar “family values”, if and when they are adopted as policy by Bernadi’s new Party. Historically, Australia has tended to follow America in adopting a raft of ideas and social trends — including the importation of US Christian evangelism — so Donald Trump’s radical plans for sweeping changed to ‘Religious Liberty’ will likely find fertile ground here too.

The Nation has published a leaked draft Executive Order for President Trump to give new religious rights across education, health, social services, job seeking, and commerce. The draft determines marriage to be only between a man and woman, that “life” begins a conception, and it will effectively legalise discrimination by any person or organisation against gays, trans identity, premarital sex and all women seeking an abortion.

While it’s easy to dismiss such draconian provisions as more aberrant policy from a ‘popularist’ US president, the implications are far-reaching. Australia has a strongly Christianised government and there’s no shortage of religious and conservative MPs — across all parties — who would embrace Donald Trump’s policy. Remember that 66% of Tony Abbott’s party room voted down the LNP conscience vote on marriage equality in 2015. It remains dormant under Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership.

The track record of Christian lobbyists and MPs blocking progressive social policy is extensive. Issues that are consistently opposed include; voluntary euthanasia, improved funding for public education, replacing religious instruction in schools with ethics classes, cutting the Chaplaincy program, halting prayers in all parliaments, reducing the annual $12b subsidy to private religious schools, and of course marriage equality.

Secular principles embedded in Section 116 of the Constitution have been actively undermined by politicised religion over many decades — despite 78% of Australians who want religion to be kept out of politics. And ‘Freedom of Religion‘ has become distorted — it was never intended to create a Christian theocracy.

Under Article 18 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) — to which Australia is signatory — the correct term has always been “Freedom of Religion and Belief“, which includes equal protection for the non-religious and secular who cite material evidence that expose the fabrications and myths of religion.

In 2017 we still pretend the supernatural origins of all three Abrahamic faiths are “true” — and we teach schoolchildren across the nation that science is subservient to the bible, based on mythical stories from Genesis. It’s little wonder that science, maths, and general education standards are failing our kids.

While ICCPR gives the right of all people to believe whatever they wish it is counterproductive to impose on society outdated religious dogma, behind the facade of ‘Religious Freedom’. Australia is now a society that predominantly religion neutral — while many of our parliaments are not — and we have far more in common with the progressive secular countries of Europe and Scandinavia than we do with Christianised America.

We need more science and less religion in schools — to counter religious fables and the flawed provenance of Christianity. We live in an evidence-based globalised world and the last thing we need is the fundamentalist rhetoric from Donald Trump and Cory Bernadi to drag us back into the dark ages.

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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  1. Ella Miller

    So what has happened to the separation of church and state?
    Do we really want churches to affect our social policy? When you think about it , it is these churches be it Catholic or Anglican who hid sexual predators…..promoted them….
    Are these the values we want to live by?

  2. John Boyd

    When might we see the more ‘reasonable’ churches, say the Uniting Church, object to the Bernadis of this world appropriating the title ‘Christian’, when their policies are anything but?

  3. Steven Forsyth

    Unfortunately democracy is now being hijacked by religion. They are using their elite private schools to produce intelligent, brainwashed people to infiltrate our parliaments. There they can change the laws to inflict their awful “religious morals” upon us. Christians are doing it now and once Islam has the numbers in the future, it will also do the same.
    Our tolerance of religion has to change.

  4. billshaw2013

    The good Christians in our political elite lay their cards on the table in their treatment of refuge seekers. Hypocrites all.

  5. Ella Miller


    SUNDAY MORNING Christians…the lot of them.

  6. Zathras

    The religious indoctrination of children is child abuse. From an early age they are taught that scientific fact is somehow inferior to religious myth and that morality exists only for the sake of a big reward to be expected after death.

    If you tell a child that the story of Jonah living inside a whale was a fairy story but that God lives at the top of a giant beanstalk they have no way of discriminating between the two notions and accept what they are told on the basis of blind trust.

    If telling them that they will burn in hell for all eternity if they fail to follow some predetermined set of guidelines and they they should live a life of shame and guilt is not cruel, I don’t know what is.

    The current controversy about child abuse by clergy is just another form of religious predation and the abuse of trust.

    There’s a very good reason for the separation of Church and State. We can easily see what religious theocracies are achieving overseas right now and history tells us the last time it happened was called The Dark Ages for a very good reason.

    Religious fanatics were once just political lobbyists but have now infiltrated governments and gaining control and politicians are little more than opportunistic pew-packers when it suits them.

    We are establishing our own form of Taliban right now and the only difference between any repressive theocracies is marketting.

  7. Kaye Lee

    I would add the tax exempt status on religion’s profitable business enterprises which expanded greatly under Howard.

    It is also pertinent that the Coalition tried to abolish the charity regulator despite the vast majority of stakeholders praising its work. But Pell didn’t want it because he doesn’t want anyone looking into the profits made by the Catholic Church. He influenced Labor to water down the reach of the regulator and then instructed Abbott to abolish it. Thankfully Abbott was unsuccessful.

    The reason Pell gave was it was too much paperwork which would present burdensome compliance costs. Speaking as a person who has had to produce a business activity statement every month since July 2000, I have little sympathy.

  8. Zathras

    Kaye Lee.

    For your info, Howard also advised that the (non-voting) Exclusive Brethren could increase their entitlement to taxpayer funding of their schools if they combined them under the umbrella of a national campus.

    Somehow some of that money found it’s way back to the Liberal Party as donations via a shelf company the Exclusive Brethren set up in Tasmania for that purpose.

    There was an attempt to debate this in the Senate but was somehow overlooked by the media.

  9. Kaye Lee

    Oh and let’s not forget that Cardinal Pell, who has absolutely zero scientific training, felt empowered enough to make a submission to the Senate Committee on climate change saying there were “good reasons for doubting that carbon dioxide causes warmer temperatures”. . He also gives speeches on it.

    A couple of my favourite quotes from Pell

    “Some of the hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are also a symptom of pagan emptiness, of Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature. Belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying psychological effect, although it is no guarantee of Utopia, no guarantee that the continuing climate and geographic changes will be benign. In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.”

    “Radical environmentalists are more than up to the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear. They don’t need church leaders to help them with this, although it is a very effective way of further muting Christian witness. Church leaders in particular should be allergic to nonsense….. I am certainly sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes. Uncertainties on climate change abound … my task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people’s minds, and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes.”

    Tin foil mitre

    Engage with reality? Is he for real?

  10. Gangey1959

    In John Lord’s daily piece today, or rather in the resultant comments there are several comments and references to different groups of people suing, or being able to sue, their governments for INaction, or indecision over Climate Change.
    Interesting concept. (And one that I am sure the various big law firms will be at least keeping up with on the basis of Just In Case)
    I have been wondering more often recently, on the basis that according to Australia’s Constitution we have a Secular Parliament and on that basis a parliamentarian’s religion should not affect their vote on a policy decision, if for example on the subject of Marriage Equality a member votes Against because of their spiritual views and religious upbringing, are they then open to litigation under Constitutional Law ?
    Or any other Laws for that matter.
    Just wondering, but I sure as shit hope so.

  11. DragonboneTor (DBT)

    I’d love to see politicians being sued for false advertising (under the trades descriptions act?) because after an election we so rarely get what they described in order to get people to vote for them. How many people who voted for the Abbot and Turnbull governments want their vote back? (And no, I didn’t).

  12. Red Leaf

    “Engage with reality? Is he for real?” No, Kaye not many religious people in positions of power can engage with reality (if they did they wouldn’t be religious people) but sadly he is very much for real and there are some people (even ones in power) that will listen to this nonsense. One of the biggest issues I have with religion is that their ideas often significantly clash with the reality experience by normal people. Therefore I am very much against any religious leader having any input on any legislation the concerns peoples lives. It has been very disturbing to see that modern politicians (on both sides) are now more likely to talk about their own faith and let it affect their political decisions than politicians were 30 years ago. It is a very disturbing and alarming trend. and I sincerely hope it doesn’t get worse.

  13. Harquebus

    What Zathras at 11:54 am said.

  14. roma guerin

    Gangey1959, that question has been banging on the door of the MSM for ages, and I cannot understand why they don’t run with it. After all, you could not find a more secular ndustry than that. The obvious answer is, Murdoch won’t let them because of the politics.

  15. Kaye Lee

    Red Leaf, we find ourselves in agreement at last 🙂

  16. jimhaz

    The issues surrounding the muslim religion act as a relief valve for political Christians.

    Attention time is finite and our attention is too often focused on the more overt negative aspects of the muslim religion. Hypothetically, if there were no muslims in Australia the left would be more active against religious based policy making. As the muslim population grows here this division of attention will remain as muslims as a group will always be more conservative about many issues, than even the ‘average’ Christian will be, so they will retain the primary focus.

  17. Ginny Lowndes

    I hate to point this out (no I don’t) but after listening to Q & A the other night it seems that it wasn’t hijabs, sharia law or Muslims that posed the greatest risk to USA security but Trump’s appointment of grandiose but mediocre ex-military personnel with no idea about how to do the job.

  18. Möbius Ecko

    jimhaz @ 2:37pm
    As the Muslim population grows here this division of attention will remain as Muslims as a group will always be more conservative about many issues, than even the ‘average’ Christian will be, so they will retain the primary focus.

    That’s true for now but just as the Christian religion is far less conservative than in decades past, with some sections now being progressive, so it will be with the growing Muslim population, especially over generations.

    The inter-Muslim fighting is in some part the old staunch conservatives trying to hang onto that conservatism by destroying anything remotely moderate or progressive within their ranks. Christians used to be the same a century or so back.

  19. will

    Talking snakes Pillars of salt Angels Devils miracles oh please can humans be any more gullible. Get a life maybe watch some Attenborough. He will enlighten and he doesn’t make it up

  20. Zathras

    If you want an indication of how much influence religion now has in American politics, you just need to see what Trump’s powerbase is thinking –

    Try and separate religion from the Right Wing.

    Rational minds at work, in touch with reality?

    Coming soon to a local Political Party near you…

  21. Owen

    ‘Religious freedom’ isn’t that a oxymoron in itself ? As for the notion of Sharia law (or the fear mongering by Conservatives & One nations Dumb,Drunk & racist voter base) its a side tactic being pushed to forward to detract from the reality of Church control over state,little to do with terrorism & more for votes. I would dare say the majority of Muslims in our country are fine upstanding citizens whom pay tax, operate with social norms & dont fleece our country of tax like the vast bulk of Christians whom spew hate speech. I live in SE QLD in a large city not far Brisbane (100km east) that has had its Mosque burnt down in a arson attack and in turn has been subject to conditions of approval by local council for the new proposed Mosque , Christians & Conservatives dominate the local political scene,can you name the town? If a Church group said it wanted to build a 700 seat mega Church it would clear all council approvals in a drop of a hat. My main point to add is if the Church groups ever want to have a say in politics start by paying tax instead using loopholes to further idiotology, but one can only dream of a democracy instead of dictatorship flavoured by Christian poison

  22. jimhaz

    @ Ginny
    [I hate to point this out (no I don’t) but after listening to Q & A the other night it seems that it wasn’t hijabs, sharia law or Muslims that posed the greatest risk to USA security but Trump’s appointment of grandiose but mediocre ex-military personnel with no idea about how to do the job]

    Yes, but that is circumstantial – they’ve already had a thousand QandA conversations about those muslim issues. Trump is the new threat on the block and even a decent percentage of right wingers are uneasy about him and his team.

  23. jimhaz

    @ Mobius

    [That’s true for now but just as the Christian religion is far less conservative than in decades past, with some sections now being progressive, so it will be with the growing Muslim population, especially over generations]

    Agree, but we don’t want to wait out those generations, if we can avoid at least some of it by limiting intake (as inoffensively as we can with such a technically offensive policy).

    [The inter-Muslim fighting is in some part the old staunch conservatives trying to hang onto that conservatism by destroying anything remotely moderate or progressive within their ranks. Christians used to be the same a century or so back]

    Agree, and it is still happening in Christian ranks. Bernardi does this constantly, driven by the decline in true beleivers in Christianity. The old offensive-defense play when under sustained threat – like a cricketer over-sledging.

  24. win jeavons

    Religious freedom is what a man called Jesus practised and look where it got him! This present government and its right wing religious nuts apply very few of their founder’s moral principles . I am political and a christian and scientifically literate, so I loathe what is done in His name with a passion . Of course I know not to take the Holy books of any sort literally as they were each the product of the thinking of former times. But the ethic is still relevant, if only rarely applied .

  25. jim

    If in 2017 and you are on the “devils” side the crux then turns to “witchcraft” which is’ IMOO, “religion”

    The one’s that push that their fairy tale as the really, really true fairy tale yep, end of story,. yep them ones they are on the devils side.. see chapter no’s ..i46.verses …..(lucky no.)

    There Was No Jesus, There Is No God is only concerned with the evidence. IMOO,the RC church pushed their “religion” onto the whole of us, the people of the world. Their “Great Commission” Others, however, see even these lesser commissions as representing Christian invention rather than…history..

  26. jim

    Religious or any such Indoctrination of young children should be an offence under classed as child abus If one reads between the lines it is not hard to identify a sinister fundamentalist agenda in that statement. Opus Dei is a strong defender of the Catholic position on matters of social morality particularly in the realm of marriage, abortion and euthanasia and its members are expected to influence government policies in these areas. While professing the importance of faith in their agenda, their aim is overwhelmingly to further Catholic teaching………… Faith is their smokescreen

  27. Alan Baird

    Damn good article straight from the shoulder. Yes, although we tend to “ape” USA in so many trends, we’ve so far managed to avoid the more extreme manifestations of christianity (thank god… oops) found in the US… ignoring the lunar right of conservative politics here in Oz. And no matter how hard big christian badge wearers pray ostentatiously, loudly, there is no sign of divine intervention (Knut where are you?) on issues smiled or frowned upon by the faithful. The rain is just as likely to drown a prayer vigil by Fred Nile as NOT fall when John Howard calls for nationwide prayers for the same bloody thing in a drought. Isn’t it WONDERFUL when god totally ignores the extreme right! Yet we still entertain these delusions of religious efficacy. Paederasts of a highly “nominal” christian persuasion in wonderfully upright christian schools were just as likely to get away with depravity with the kiddies and retire more happily than the whistle blower who had told all about it was to be hounded to an early grave. The ONLY reason that christianity has become more “reasonable” (often to a pretty marginal degree: there are plenty of Cories and Tonies around) is that science etc has come along and bit them on the bum by exposing (again!) their human & intellectually fragile thought-bubbles. You only have to see the seething annoyance of trogs like Tones at scientific institutions such as the CSIRO (defunded) and the DIVERSION of funds to IDIOTIC programs like the priests in school scheme… all at considerable TAX costs despite the “budget emergency” which is strangely forgotten in the face of religion. And don’t get me started about the desirability of separation of church and state. How the hell can we attack muslim fundamentalists and at the same time install govt funded christian priests in schools? We have stupid public policy in this country when religion calls the shots, especially when politicians use it for their own ends. Fick and ficker! Please, my invisible lord, save us from the christians. Oh and all the other denominations/brands. Sometimes they’re worse, and that’s saying a mouthful.
    PS. I always though it amusing when the Idiot Right compared climate SCIENCE with a “religion”, get this, as a pejorative term, but fought tooth and nail against any sane analysis of yer common or garden religion and its place… no… genuine PHYSICAL effectiveness… in the REAL WORLD! Drag those knuckles guys!

  28. wam

    politicians have never had to flaunt their faith because society was on god’s side. The jews, the church and masons were safely packaged and comfortably in charge of their little sacred businesses. Harmony ruled with the occasional palistinian hiatus and wasp/wasc bout.

    Kevin Andrews strode into the limelight in 96 with his catholic indignity and the micks just kept the reign going. There is hardly a male policy maker who hasn’t been forgiven after a penance or a whack from a nun.

    The church has an attitude towards women that deserves contempt but indoctrination is powerful enough to avoid questioning.

    The fly in the ointment is the third manifestation of god, muslims. To question the muslim god opens the christian and jewish god to scrutiny.

    Wow so dangerous that no christian will risk such thoughts. Indeed, casual observation suggests the rabbott never read submissions in case his faith was challenged and relied on staff telling him a church sanitized version of what was in the report.

    ps john boyd glad you put ‘reasonable’ in quotation marks because the united church were amongst the chief employers of self-righteous child ‘bashers’ in their ‘paid’ homes.

  29. Zathras

    Homeschooling is the ultimate in indoctrination. It’s purpose is to mould children into the image of their parents while cutting them off from their peers – a typical strategy used by all cult groups.

    There was a case in the USA recently where an divorced Orthodox Jew lost visitation rights to his son because his Ultra-Orthodox ex-wife heard the boy had been taken on a trip to a Museum. The wife argued that the boy could have been exposed to the Theory of Evolution which goes against what she was trying to teach him and the US Court upheld her complaint – legally endorsed deliberate ignorance on behalf of religion.

    When it comes to Opus Dei, the NSW Liberal party used to be controlled by the hard Right “NSW Uglies” which in turn influences the National Branch. It was no coincidence that the electorates of Tony Abbott, Bronwyn Bishop, Joe Hockey, Philip Rudd and John Howard are all from Sydney’s North Shore.

    The NSW Branch is now controlled by Opus Dei Catholic David Clarke MLC.and Opus Dei have significant representation and influence within the political and legal arenas. Although it’s based in the USA shows how their influence has grown.

    Tony Abbott himself gave a personal reference to an Opus Dei priest who was later found guilty of child molestation.

  30. keerti

    In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.”Pell. Showing here his own lack of understanding of his own religion’s history! Wasn’t it rife in the old testament to murder sheep and even their own children as sacrifices to their imaginary friend.

  31. Pat Garnet

    It’s a myth that CHURCH n STATE are not associated. I am an activist for victims of sexual abuse. Having been duped and hoodwinked for over 50 years in the c.c for 25 years I now know that it, along with several other similar organisations are very instrumental in Governments per se. Too long a story and the realisation that these organisations are “MONEY MAKING CULTS borne out of an IDEOLOGY” (Stephen Fry), form my impression.

  32. Pat Garnet

    I am very impressed with the depth of comments on this site. I was reluctantly forced to give up my devotion to an imaginary super star when I became aware of the sexual abuse travesty within the c.c ( I can’t give capital letters or full term to these maggots). Finally the Royal Commission is showing some teeth or at least seem to be onto the SMELL.
    People power might hasten justice and change, but at present it looks like it will be decades before we can rest in the knowledge that this group of parasites will be brought to JUSTICE. They protected paedophiles and covered up this heinous crime. Appropriate punishment has so far NOT been administered. Please stay in touch with future media notifications and hopefully you might be able to support campaigns demanding justice for victims/survivors. Cheers Pat

  33. Kaye Lee


    I learn a great deal from the comments on this site. It is a place where people listen, think, exchange ideas, share research, search for truth. It has become a community within itself and I greatly appreciate the contributions by all.

  34. Red Leaf

    Zathras, I homeschooled my five children.. They were not cut off from their age peers, because homeschoolers get together and form large groups for outings, activities, combined lessons etc. No homeschooler I know keeps their children at the kitchen table all the time. I find that sometimes schools can be used for indoctrination. My children had more exposure to a greater variety of adults of different professions, outlooks than school children who are trapped in their classroom. Homeschooling is becoming much more popular because schools are failing our children. Homeschooling in Australia is very different from homeschooling in the US. Here we have to meet specific criteria before we can remove our children from the school system, we have to show what we will teach and how, and we are inspected annually. The inspectors also ask about social and extra-carricula activities. My strongest supporters were my mother who had been a primary school teacher for 40 years and many of her friends who had also been teachers. Please don’t make unfounded comments about something you don’t know anything about.

  35. Pingback: Opinion: Daily Telegraph: Bernardi, Trump and Religious Freedom | Plain Reason

  36. Zathras

    Red Leaf,

    I was specifically referring to US religious fundamentalists who homeschool as part of a strategy to breed an army of “culture warriors” and statistically most of the growth of homeschooling in the USA has been from Christian fundamentalist sects.

    Many of the recent wave of students taught this way are now old enough to speak out and are telling some disturbing stories where their experience wasn’t a child-first movement but an ideology-first movement.

    I also realise there are benefits to that educational approach if done correctly and for the right reasons.

    Sorry – I shouldn’t have generalised..

  37. jimhaz

    [There Was No Jesus]

    I’m quite happy to accept that there was a Jesus – but he was a somewhat enlightened man who combined parts of the jewish religion and eastern philosophies – definitely not the son of god though. He may have been a pretender, namely a “guru type” and that is why his more existential teachings lack consistency.

    The impression I get is that his disciples didn’t understand what enlightenment was. I spent a few years trying to understand enlightenment to become convinced enough it was worth the courage to give it a go – but failed. At best only 1 in a 100,000 have minds suitable for enlightenment, so it is of little surprise that the disciples placed their own ego based interpretations on what Jesus may have intended. Once they did the base was ruined and those who used it to control others took over.

    Here is a bit of the real Jesus, as found in the Gospel of Thomas, a Gnostic Gospel text (set of notes) far less tainted by religion.

    “His disciples said to him, “Is circumcision useful or not?

    He said to them, “If it were useful, their father would produce children already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true circumcision in spirit has become profitable in every respect.”

  38. jim

    So is evident that it took 300 years AD,before the bible came to being, funny that, aah but no doubt there’s a reason for this,right.
    I’m sick to death of christen fundamentalists ruining our country, I’m sick to death of the LNP government.

  39. Mark Needham

    Religion, should be called for the Fraud and Pox, that it is.
    Not to be banned or made a martyr to itself. Just deny it, the financial and moral rights that it is given by a society that is too gutless and/or forgiving to call it for what it is.
    Mark Needham

  40. silkworm

    Red Leaf: “I homeschooled my five children.”

    Are you a fundamentalist Christian?

  41. Pat Garnet

    I will continue to repeat Stephen Fry’s account that

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