By Brian Morris
We should prepare for the mantra of ‘Religious Freedom’ to arise once again – with a freshly engineered version of the Religious Discrimination (privileges) Bill. That is, of course, if our Pentecostal prime minister is returned at this election.
In that event it will simply be more PR and spin from the Christian Churches and politicians, despite Philip Ruddock’s 2018 Religious Freedom Review showing there was “no impediment” to religious freedom in Australia.
But the Review made concessions to religion which – with the help of Christian Porter and the Morrison government – morphed into several troubled versions of the Religious Discrimination Bill (RDB). In February 2022 the Bill was “shelved”, but it was not defeated.
Its failure to pass into law, however, did create even greater angst for the religious right. There was already a form of ‘Christian Woke’ – or claims of religious racism – which arose from the sense of injustice and persecution when Same Sex Marriage was legalised.
The RDB remains a means to re-establish Christian authority for religious fundamentalists – especially on the LGBTI issue. They still wish to impose their religious “ethos” within education, together with the ability to hire and fire teachers and reject students purely on the basis of their sexuality.
While mainstream print and electronic media have reported widely on Religious Freedom – since the Ruddock Review – it has been almost exclusively based on the religious and political aspects of the proposed legislation.
Missing in this entire four-year debate has been the secular and ‘A-theist’ (footnote) argument. It’s not just in the political and social justice context (of banning LGBTI teachers and students) – but also a need to question the vagaries of fundamentalist Christian doctrine that has dominated media commentary.
And that includes the broad swathe of secular policy – well beyond RDB and religious education with its ultra-Christian sensibilities. There is an upsurge of evangelical self-righteousness which seeks to further entrench its influence in the media and in state and federal politics.
We have at least one federal candidate who says, “I want God’s kingdom to penetrate the political mountain.” This sounds very much like the very far right religious philosophy of “7 Mountains Mandate” that seeks to dominate the whole of society. And Kimberly Horn is not alone in her quest. It’s well worth watching the Lance Wallnau video.
So too the hundreds of Pentecostals who have joined the Liberal Party – and there’s a strong argument why undeclared evangelicals in parliaments further weaken our badly compromised “Separation of Church and State” which has gradually been whittled away.
And, of course, we have a Prime Minister who says he was “called to do God’s work.”
It’s not sufficient that print and electronic media merely report these facts – the problem here is that there’s scant secular or A-theist commentary on WHY a growing religious influence in politics and the media is socially regressive.
What ever happened to the media code of, “without fear or favour”? Is it just easier to ignore every aspect of the A-theist argument for fear of a Christian backlash – a reprimand from the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, or simply a flood of cranky Christians flooding the switchboard?
The devoutly religious have two well-practiced clichés that they roll out to combat a rare challenge that gets run by the media. Invariably it’s to dismiss comments that come from ‘communistic atheists’ or ‘militant secularists’. No debate is needed!
It’s the secular and A-theist majority that need to be calling for more ‘freedom’ in mainstream media. When was the last time we heard or read any substantial challenge to the flawed foundations of fundamentalist Christian doctrine that constantly undermines the progressive secular agenda?”
And surely it’s high time that all federal candidates – including current parliamentarians – were made accountable to the electorate. We really do need to know how their religion, or lack of faith, will influence their party’s position on a raft of social legislation.
An IPSOS poll showed 78 per cent of the public want religion separated from the business of government, yet we continue to see a sharp upsurge of politicised Christianity. Australia is already regarded as a ‘soft theocracy’ with far too much religious influence in government.
So it really is time to dispel this myth of ‘Christian Woke’ – they are not a persecuted cohort by any stretch of the imagination – on the contrary, their political and media influence is extensive.
Aided by Scott Morrison, politicians, and a raft of Christian lobbies religion has been placed on a pedestal by most of mainstream media. They appear captivated by the pomp and ceremony, and by the authority a very remote and out-of-touch Christian hierarchy.
And it has become a media taboo to question that authority. And not least the apparent veto to challenge the flawed foundations of Christian history that underpin the doctrines and dogma which for centuries have thwarted progressive social policy.
So it would be politically relevant for the public to regularly hear the secular and A-theist voice – those who speak for the 78 per cent of citizens who oppose politics being driven by religion.
And there is no shortage of topics that challenge the illusion a ‘Christian Woke’. Their claims of injustice and persecution are merely elements of shrewd marketing to maintain a consistent religious PR and media relations profile.
Footnote: “A-theism is not, per se, “anti-religious” – nor does it malign people of religion. Rather, it is free to question the religious doctrines that underpin fundamentalist views on all contemporary social and secular issues.
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.
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