The growing percentage of Australia’s population reporting no religion has been a trend for decades, and is accelerating with almost 7 million people (30%) describing themselves as having “no religion” in the 2016 census.
The figure is even higher amongst young people with 39% of people aged 18-34 reporting no religious affiliation.
Yet the Coalition is going in the other direction. In the last couple of days, we have been shown just how far.
Nationals MP George Christensen is set to be ordained a deacon in the Anglican Church in July.
It appears George has been religion shopping until he found the right fit for him.
He spent a few weeks in a Catholic seminary when he was 21 but quit. Then in 2014 he joined the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Now he’s become an Anglican, attaching himself to one of the few Anglican dioceses in Australia that does not ordain women priests, The Murray, in South Australia.
He won’t be moving to South Australia, but rather is expected to be attached to a parish in Mackay, in his home diocese of north Queensland, where he will assist with services and other activities.
“I am humbled to have my vocation to ordination in the church discerned,” George proclaimed. Though it hasn’t stopped him from reaffirming he will contest the next Federal election.
Mr Christensen has been studying theology through the Sydney College of Divinity and says he could be ordained a priest in the future, but only once he leaves parliament.
Then down in Victoria, at least five Mormons were elected as party officers at last week’s Liberal Party state conference, notably a doctor who blames ungodly love for HIV, as well as a prominent campaigner against the Safe Schools program.
They are part of a group of ultra-conservatives and religious activists who are centred around 28-year-old Liberal factional leader, Marcus Bastiaan, who has been accused of branch-stacking, actively recruiting Mormons and other ultra-conservatives to the Liberal Party. The Bastiaan faction’s push for power paid off when it won 13 of 19 seats on the powerful administrative committee last weekend.
In NSW it gets even more bizarre with the head of the Carlingford branch of the Liberal Party calling for Sharia style caning for crimes.
The notoriously hard-right Carlingford branch, under its colourful president George Popowski, will discuss a push to “straighten out the law and order system” by handing sentencing powers to a panel of 20 members of the public, with no more than 30 per cent from the legal fraternity.
He proposed 10 lashes for theft of a T-shirt, 1000 lashes for stealing a car (2000 if the vehicle is damaged), 5000 lashes for punching a police officer and 20,000 lashes for murder.
The floggings should be “delivered at 10 lashes per hour – every hour from 9am to 5pm, with one hour for lunch”, Mr Popowski wrote. The sentence would be doubled for second-time offenders.
It’s nice they get time off from the flogging for some lunch.
There is also a push on from “dozens of Liberal MPs” to renew, and significantly boost, the “absolutely essential” school chaplaincy program in this year’s budget. They want to increase the $250 million funding by 25% and make it a permanent, indexed commitment.
We shall see if ScoMo’s magic pudding extends that far when he “goes live” this evening. (It’s a little bit tragic when your Treasurer posts on Facebook “Today at 7:30pm ScoMo plans to go live.”)
The sooner we separate religion and state completely, the better. That will entail getting rid of a Coalition who is so far out of touch with mainstream Australian values that they have become an irrelevant anachronism who should have no place in the halls of power.