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Religious protection: Why?

How quickly do we forget?

Few if any of the religious organisations in Australia came off as blameless, following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

While the level of abuse in Catholic institutions was possibly the worst, even pastors and their relatives in evangelical organisations have had the finger pointed at them for covering up offences.

The question of financial compensation for victims is as yet unresolved, and contributions from many religious organisations to the National Redress Scheme are falling well short of what is needed.

And that, when most if not all these organisations have charitable status for tax purposes!

How charitable is it to rape an innocent child or take part in covering up such a heinous offence?

They should be hiding their heads in shame instead of queuing up to seek further freedoms from a complicit government! In fact, they should be made liable for taxation on all their fund-raising immediately, in order to provide resources for compensation!

But, as with follow up on the Banking RC – which the Coalition strongly opposed, until they were forced to establish it – the issue of redress has now been brushed on one side while necessary action to restore confidence in the financial institutions is not even in the pipeline for the newly re-elected Coalition government. Nor is insistence on adequate compensation for victims of abuse!

Do these religious hypocrites in the Coalition government have such short memories or, in their hubris following the unexpected election results, do they assume that we do?

If I had been one of those victims of abuse by priests or employees of any religious organisation, my blood would run cold at the thought that the Coalition government is seriously contemplating a bill to protect and promote religious freedom!

Some individuals refuse to accept that modern scientific knowledge makes it clear that those born into LGBTIQ status do not choose to be different, because their sexuality was defined before birth.

Consequently, if these individuals in denial are religiously motivated, they may proceed to condemn members of the LGBTIQ group to ‘burn in hell’ status on the basis of an ill-founded ‘belief’ in the uneducated views recorded both in the bible or appropriate holy books for those of other religions.

In addition, religious schools appear to be free to promote unfounded beliefs by teaching their students ‘facts’ based on their ancient writings, rather than recognising modern teaching based on more recent scientific understanding – think creationism vs evolution. To oppose the Safe Schools project is to subject vulnerable children to what is often life-threatening abuse.

Astronomical knowledge revealed by the research of Copernicus and Galileo was, in its time, rejected by the Catholic church, so what is new?

In fact, you have to ask: Where does ‘belief’ begin and end when it is based on past levels of knowledge which are now known to be false?

Coming from the UK, where the protestant Church of England is the established church – at least in England and Wales – the pervasive influence of the Catholic church did not influence government to the extent to which it does in Australia. Nor does the more recent growth of the Pentecostal movement – where it seems that getting rich is the short cut to heaven – aid in reducing the clear influence on government of many members’ religious beliefs – in contradiction to the Constitution s 116.

My firm belief, having been brought up in a Christian household and now being an agnostic, is that we need ethics and comparative religion, in the historical context, taught in all schools; we need restraints put on the curriculum in private religious schools to ensure they are delivering modern truths instead of ancient debunked mistruths (or they lose all funding support from governments); we need protection for the non-religious from religious bigots who assume the right to tell them that they are sinners, and we need a truly secular government to adhere to its obligations under the Constitution – until such time as we succeed in replacing the Constitution with one appropriately incorporating an effective Bill of Rights to the 21st century!

I am truly gob-smacked that any Australian government could see the need to protect religion to any greater extent than is provided by the Constitution, when the damage that has been done, over many years, to our young and defenceless, has been so recently revealed and not yet redressed!

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  1. Jack Cade

    As the product of a Catholic mother and a Protestant father in a (moderately) divided city – Liverpool – I think it’s US that should be protected from religion.

  2. Baby Jewels

    This government is little more than a gang of criminals themselves. Are they hoping the RC into the banking industry will just be forgotten? And why aren’t they chasing up these rich churches to pay their compensation. Personally, I think there should be far more of them languishing in jail.

  3. Florence Howarth

    it is only worse in the Catholic Church because they have more opportunity. I am surprised that Nuns got off so easy.

  4. Freethinker

    Do not get distracted with the horrendous depictable behavior of the Catholic church, the purpose/agenda behind this movement of “Freedom of Religion” is more sinister and are no the Catholics behind it.
    The Christians fundamentalists, Evangelists, and Pentecostalism are the main drivers behind with the support of the Human Rights Law Alliance (HRLA) giving the legal advice to the Australian Christian Lobby.
    Fundamentalism creates division in the masses to the point of hate to others and complements very well to many of the policies and political agenda of the extreme right to control the majority.
    IMO the majority is too complacent with this and if do not start become active bringing alternatives and protesting if they are ignored the minority will win.
    The Freedom of religion laws have the purpose to make the Section 116 in the constitution nearly useless and this is the beginning of many. to come.
    I suggest starting debation, bringing alternatives, we can start looking into The Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life and see what we can improve to it or adapt to the Australian constitution.

  5. whatever

    This whole thing started with Abbott and Ruddock establishing the “Religious Freedom Review”, or whatever they call it, in Parliament.
    And it was a classic Reactionary spasm against the Gay Marriage referendum, which their own party initiated.
    The Sydney Anglicans are the richest and the craziest God-botherers in this bid to establish Theocratic rule.
    Maybe they should all just migrate to Iran. They still have stonings and other brutal punishments for the entertainment of the pious. They would have to learn new prayers and go to a different-looking church but, hey, its the same God.

  6. Rosemary J36

    Freethinker: I appreciate that the movement behind it comes from the fundamentalists and arises from the same sex marriage issue, but the horrors that came out in the Sexual Abuse RC are still fresh in people’s minds, and IMHO, they are more likely to stir people into opposition than any other approach.
    My greatest frustration comes from the blind ‘faith’; which chooses to rely on the teachings of the Bible and totally ignore the fact that modern knowledge gives the lie to many of the biblical sources for directing behaviour.
    If the law in a secular country like Australia can accept that same sex unions are legal because all individuals are equal under the law, then it should be illegal to allow discrimination against the LGBTIQ community and people like Israel Folau should be punished for breaking more than his employment contract!
    All these religions with prohibitions on eating certain foods are ignoring the fact that it was a sensible approach before refrigeration became readily available but it is now religious ritual instead of good food sense!
    Rules against incest are well founded but why cannot a man marry his brother’s widow?
    The list goes on and ‘faith’ has a lot of misery to answer for.
    Giving it more scope would be insane.

  7. wam

    We had the Archbishop Mannix, the DLP and Santa Maria spouting jesuit doctrine all though pig iron bob torturous monotonous no forward movement marching on the communist spot for all my youth and how ironic was it that a rampant WASP was feted and protected by WASCs.

    The two churches have always been an influence over politics from a position of power.
    For most of the prewar years they were separated by fear and mutual distrust but society but became tolerant of each other under menzies and accepted the jews and other minor religions.

    Menzies et al made sure the religious adherents were totally frightened by atheistic communists.
    Remember the ‘faceless men’ who lurked in the labor party and the concept was trotted out whenever ming felt he needed a boost. The Murdoch dynasty has always been compliant..

    That tolerance pottered along until the attention to the failings of the third bible religion became an issue whose interpretation of the god of Abraham threatened investigation of jesus’ position in faith. Wow that is real scary and any risk of questions about faith must be avoided at all costs.
    I am optimistic that the 60% who voted for the rainbow will spoil the frightened christian’s protection party and common sense will prevail but 23-6 in Qld has put that into the hope section ie hope that the catholics have gone overboard in their ‘freedom of religion’.

    But who cares my family are not indoctrinated into any single belief and free to choose.from the whole gamut or indeed like a troll flit from one to t’other as convenient.

  8. Miriam English

    Over thousands of years countless religious people were killed or oppressed because of religious intolerance. Today we are lucky that out of that awful history we have religious freedom written into our constitution.

    The current government of halfwits, and the ACL, and various fundamentalist religious groups want to undo that protection, paradoxically in the name of strengthening it. They imagine that by putting Christians beyond criticism by non-religious people and enabling Christians to be arbitrarily discriminatory against LGBTI+ folk they are enhancing religious freedom. What they are doing instead is sabotaging it.

    It only takes a little bit of thought to see what the result of such changes to the law will mean. Sure, they will get their dark little hearts’ desire to discriminate against LGBTI+ folk, but bundled with that will be the ability to denounce and hate other kinds of religion. We will soon see the revival of old hatreds between Catholics and Protestants, more vocal hatred between Christians and Muslims, everybody attacking the Jews, and renewed hate against atheists. We will see a new surge in hate crimes. Nobody hates religious people as much as other religious people, and if we’ve learned anything over the past thousands of years it is that religion is extremely effective at promoting hate and violence.

    These misnamed “religious freedom” laws will backfire really badly. They will decrease the ability of religious people to be free of attacks from other religious people. Everybody will quickly tire of religious bigots fomenting hate, oppression, and violence thus hastening the demise of religion. I expect the non-religious fraction of the population (which is rapidly increasing) will start using the new laws to fire fundamentalist bigots, or to avoid hiring them in the first place. They will see the wisdom in not exposing their organisations to the costly disruption bigots can cause.

  9. Freethinker

    Rosemary, is Australia a secular country? The constitution read, quote:
    WHEREAS the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, …………
    The parliaments around Australia begin with the Lord’s Prayer.
    Yes, section 116 gives some freedom from religion and religion freedom but it cannot be imposed on the States.

  10. Dr Tristan Ewins

    I don’t think Santamaria was a Jesuit. Though arguably he was a fascist. (of the Franco variety ; something he had in common with Abbott) ‘Prosperity Gospel’ goes against basic Christian teachings. There are many Christians who are very progressive on social justice issues and refugees. Some religious doctrine is pretty hard to accept in today’s day and age. Forcible suppression is not the answer though. Banning the quoting of scripture would hurt not just Christians but also Jews and Muslims.

  11. Miriam English

    Freethinker I’m not sure about this, but I think the religious stuff about god was inserted into the constitution relatively recently. Previously I think our constitution was secular. Regardless, in Australia the largest group regarding religious belief is non-religious folk (Catholics are the second biggest). In several more years non-religious people will outnumber all variants of Christians together. Then it won’t really matter what we theoretically are, because we will in actuality be non-religious. And if Morrison brings in his “religious freedom” laws I expect their misuse by religious extremists will so alienate people that religious belief will decline even more rapidly.

  12. corvus boreus

    Miriam English,
    The phrase ‘humbly relying on the blessing of God’ was in the opening line of the of the Australian constitution when it was first tabled back in 1900.
    Also, although the document does not specify any state religion, nor does it seem to (admittedly only on superficial perusal) specifically define a legal separation between church and state either.
    However, we in Antipodea don’t seem to greatly fetishise either our constitution or the ‘wisdom of the founding fathers’, so it is possible to change the wording and content of sections of the Australian constitution by the mechanism of a successful referendum

  13. corvus boreus

    Thank you, I missed that paragraph.

  14. Miriam English

    Corvus, thank you for the correction. I appreciate it.
    Yes, I’m sooooo glad we don’t feel the need to orgasm all over our constitution like the yanks do, however I do wish our constitution was a bit better.

    Freethinker, thank you for the link. It makes very interesting reading.

  15. RosemaryJ36

    Freethinker: Given this definition of secular
    ‘not connected with religious or spiritual matters’
    Then yes – the government is secular.

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