Israel Folau’s earnest belief in the Bible, as the source of the way to follow his faith, has made a mountain out of a molehill. Apart from the fact that, if he were truly a Christian, his first source of direction should be Jesus Christ’s teachings (foremost among which is the exhortation to “Love thy neighbour as thyself” – something which Folau clearly does not do very well!) he has accepted two myths.
Firstly, homosexuality – or any other of the LGBTIQ presentations – is not a matter of choice. The only ‘choice’ arises when the individual decides, or not, to reveal publicly her/his variation from the majority heterosexual ‘norm’
Secondly, there is evidence that the references which can be found in the Bible to a practice which has most recently been translated as homosexuality is actually incorrect. The translation implying a man ‘lying with another man as with a woman’ is probably more correctly translated as ‘a man lying with a young male . . .’ – which clearly is referring to pederasty or what we now call paedophilia – which we would now agree is sexual abuse.
In all of this, also overlooked by many, is the fact that we do know a lot more about a lot of things than was the case when the writings in the Bible were authored!
Religious people happily fly in planes, accept modern medicine and surgical procedures, read about actual space travel – the list is endless – all because research over the years has revealed knowledge which was not available at the time of the early prophets.
I grew up in a Protestant household in the UK at a time when it was assumed that everyone was Christian – mostly Protestant or C of E with a minority of Catholics – but I am now in fairly close agreement with Stephen Fry.
I am more than happy to try to follow the ethics espoused by Jesus Christ and am sure he as a person did exist as a great moral leader, but I remain an agnostic when it come to the existence of a god.
Since coming to Australia, I have been really happy that the Constitution prevents the government from supporting any particular religion, and I think the current push by the Christian lobby for legislation to protect religious freedom is highly dangerous.
We are a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic community with many religions represented here – let alone the many Christian sects!
It is only the Christians who are pushing for this legislation – which in turn is dangerous. And in doing so, they are turning their backs on the knowledge that has been revealed by scientific research just as they are doing in relation to the climate emergency!
We have an actual intrusion of religion into education across the board. Federal government funding goes to wealthy private schools which are almost exclusively religiously connected, recent governments have unwisely replaced properly trained school counsellors with religious chaplains, trained to proselytise, and, sadly, the states have not refused the money to do what the Constitution prevents the Commonwealth government from doing.
My personal belief is that, since we are notionally a secular country (in so far as our government is not allowed to promote or prevent religious practice), we should not allow religion to intrude in any way on governance.
If a religious group wishes to educate their children in a private school, they should be required to ensure they follow the state/territory curriculum. It is totally wrong for a school to base its curriculum on religious teachings which run counter to modern scientific knowledge. Creationism is one clear example and now same sex marriage – legal here and in an increasing number of countries – is still being opposed as unacceptable by many religious people, including both Christians and Muslims. It is not fair to children to leave them in ignorance of the truth because their elders refuse to accept it!
When I was teaching in the UK, my first position as a maths teacher was in the Convent of the Sacred Heart High School for Girls, Hammersmith. The Principal, a really delightfully wise woman, was the Mother Superior, one third of the teaching staff were nuns, one third were lay Catholic and the rest of us were non-Catholic.
The school followed the national secondary school curriculum but all the Catholics were required to attend mass on Thursday and only Catholics took on the role of providing pastoral care to a home class. I did yard duty every lunch time to balance the books!
Importantly, this was a public school, publicly funded through the County Council, and was, like many religious schools, able to follow the Charter under which it was originally established, providing it did not conflict with the government syllabus.
Catholics in the UK at that time were a minority and had a much more limited influence on government policy than has been the case here. In state secondary schools, the Scriptures could be taught as an examinable, academic subject.
The limited influence is highlighted by the fact that abortion, under certain circumstances has been legally available, as part of the NHS system, since 1967.
But I stray.
What I am trying to emphasise is that there is a tacit acceptance in the UK that people can practice any religion, but when it comes to education, they will only assist those schools which follow the approved state curriculum. This despite the fact that the C of E is the recognised church in the UK.
The Public Schools, like Eton and Harrow and Cheltenham Ladies’ College are totally independent but would still follow a very similar academic curriculum to the state schools since this is developed by the universities.
We run the risk here of children being denied a proper science education because modern scientific knowledge conflicts with ancient religious records!
Unfortunately, Folau’s misplaced enthusiasm for saving people from their sins has done a great deal of damage.
Young, vulnerable LGBTIQ are at grave risk of self-harm and suicide because they are too often subject to criticism and bullying because they are ‘different’. Major sports organisations have been working very hard to ensure inclusivity and prevent discrimination on any grounds and Folau has damaged his own prospects by refusing to conform, despite warnings.
Religion is a highly divisive issue and to be so much in the headlines leads to disharmony – which is really sad because it should be directed towards a standard of ethical behaviour which helps life run more smoothly. Any Australian is free to follow their faith BUT they are NOT free to hurt others in the process.
Every right – whether it be free speech or freedom to practice a religion – is always bracketed with responsibility. Your freedom should not cause hurt to others.
I earnestly beseech anyone who is still sitting on the fence to seriously oppose any legislation regarding religious freedoms because the issue is succinctly covered in s116 of the Australian Constitution! Nothing more is needed!
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