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The Irony of Political and Religious Power

By Brian Morris  

Politics and religion have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship since Christianity became the Church of Rome in the 4th century. The legacy continues with impending legislation.

Power does have a tendency to corrupt and – in the hands of many political and religious leaders (over many centuries) – all evidence points to the fact that too much power can indeed corrupt absolutely!

Throughout 2021 there will be an increasing sense of irony as politics and religion come under greater scrutiny. Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, has begun her inquiry into the toxic workplace culture in federal parliament. Allegations of rape and sexual harassment have finally come to a head, together with a side issue of historical rape alleged against Attorney General Christian Porter.

Central to this political quagmire is the “elite privilege” enjoyed by parliamentarians, especially ministers, to “hire and fire” at will – with no questions asked, or answered – according to ABC’s March 7th Insiders program.

It’s therefore ironic that Christian Porter is the architect of a Bill – soon to be introduced into parliament – that will provide bonus “privileges” to all religious institutions. The new law will give more power to hire and fire any employee, based on their religion and compliance with the religious “ethos” of that institution.

While Canberra is dragged kicking and screaming to confront its chauvinistic internal culture, it also appears that religious institutions have learnt little from recommendations of the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse. Their hubris comes from centuries of enshrined power to control believers and influence social policy.

Christian Porter’s ‘Religious Discrimination Bill’ is a prescriptive devise which panders to a religious culture that is socially divisive. It is based on a logical fallacy that all religions have been deprived of their “religious freedom” – a claim roundly repudiated by Phillip Ruddock’s original Religious Freedom Review. Attorney General Porter has cherry-picked that review to concoct a ‘Religious Discrimination’ law that is blatantly anti-secular.

What is the imperative for Catholic schools to only hire a maths teacher steeped in the ethos of Catholicism? Equally, why is it essential that an Islamic institution hires only a Muslim gardener, or a Jewish chemist is able to discriminate against female customers, based on his own narrow religious beliefs?

Our federal government administers a workplace culture that remains gender divisive, with a predominance of cabinet ministers who are strongly religious – and a number who openly proclaim their faith; most notably Scott Morrison who flaunts his Pentecostalism. But a growing concern is with Christian lobbies who now actively recruit candidates to stack federal and state parliaments with more Christian MPs.

Religion in Australia does not require additional privileges to exert greater religious power. The national census in August this year will again show a substantial increase in the ‘No Religion’ demographic – historically kept low in comparison with our cousins in New Zealand, UK and Scandinavia, due to our strongly Christianised parliaments and a misleading census question on ‘Religious Affiliation’.

Our constitution was originally framed as a ‘secular’ document but successive conservative governments, and a number of unfortunate High Court decisions, have led Church authorities to repeatedly claim (incorrectly) that Australia is a “Christian nation.” It is not.

Christianisation of education has steadily increased since Prime Minister Robert Menzies began eroding secular public schools in favour of government funding for Catholic education. Today, with clever marketing, 40 per cent of children attend taxpayer funded private religious schools – close to the highest rate among all OECD nations.

Christian Porter’s Religious Freedom Bill seeks to escalate religious privilege within the highly labour-intensive sectors of education, health and aged care. It is ironic that the toxic culture of parliament is about to pass more divisive legislation that will make religious-based health and education a “closed shop” for the faithful.

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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13 comments

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  1. Harry Lime

    That smoke you see on the horizon is the burning wreckage of our ‘Christian’s’ political career.How good is karma?

  2. New England Cocky

    UnChristian Porter strikes again!! Not happy with Robodebt, persecution of Witness K, destroying the Family Court established by Lionel Murphy (ALP), supporting neo-Nazi ”OK to be White” and other horrors to take Australia back into the 19th century racist, White Supremacist, imperialist, class conscious thought bubble that Liarbral Nazional$ believe should be maintained at any expense … so long as somebody else pays for it.

  3. Jack sprat

    Christian Porter’s recent bout of bad karma must mean Buddhism is the only true religion .

  4. Wam

    So many atrocious lies can be traced back to Menzies, mannix and Santa Maria. This was despite Menzies being an ultimate WASP. His Protestant beliefs were second to his pragmatic solution to keep power. He was loathed in our family of mixed ideals of green and orange. The pope and paisley should have been enough to kill Christianity but a third party evangelist revived it big time. Last week, I got a post: “if you are under 30 and find your church a bit boring go to hill song for excitement.” Folau was questioned on his religious beliefs which should be a precedent for politicians to be questioned on any of their beliefs that may impinge on their ability to be impartial? I think it is dodgy making donations tax free but business earning of churches should be taxed. The curriculum for church schools should be set by the state and monitored with religious lessons outside of the school 6 hours.

  5. Kaye Lee

    Four Corners have a follow up story tonight.

  6. Matters Not

    Re:

    The curriculum for church schools should be set by the state and monitored …

    Already is – in effect. The vast majority of parents want their student children to receive a credential, broadly defined, that’s recognised by employers, further education institutions, universities and the like. For that to happen, students are exposed to a common curriculum, usually developed by a wide range of representatives from state and private schools, parents, plus subject associations as well as university, TAFE, and employer groups. All interested groups get the nod.

    Usually, the cost burden of curriculum development and subsequent certification (the awarding of a credential) is borne by the State.

    But that’s just the overt curriculum. The hidden curriculum – what is learnt (or not) as part of the broader schooling experience can vary quite considerably depending on the school ethos, including attitudes and values.. In that regard, the how can be just as important as the what.

  7. Matters Not

    Re:

    in favour of government funding for … taxpayer funded private …

    Believe you had it right with your first attempt. You know government funding. Taxpayers have absolutely no say on who, what, when or why re (what was their funds) will be spent. That’s the objective, legal reality.

    If in any doubt, you could test it, by asking for your money back and see how you go. Lol.

  8. Wam

    Thanks, MN, certainly at the primary school religious curriculum is not prescribed by government. Even in senior school level selected students get extra attention, in the old days, in SA, they often got two years study for matriculation. The parents, of the top students, expect and get results at exams and many others expect and get the benefits of the school tie. But that is after 10-11 years education and only for the usual 10%-15%(higher at the very to selective schools who offer scholarships to top students) the rest are marking time till they are old enough to leave.
    MN a rich melb catholic school got $5m over paid the bishop said he will give it to the poor schools the gov acquiesced

  9. Matters Not

    Re tonight’s Four Corners. Milligan was on a hiding to nothing, particularly because of Pell and the subsequent outcome(s) So she ought to be congratulated in what was very delicate, precarious political territory. If you believe that Porter is/was guilty, there was enough there to convince. If you believe that Porter is being lynched in the media, again your view can be reinforced. Free to construct the reality of your choosing.

    Bound to cause tension in many households this evening, if my experience can be extrapolated.

    Looking at the bigger picture, there was overwhelming, compelling evidence of why we need the ABC.

  10. Ken

    Nice to read another very good article from you Brian.

  11. Once was a liberal

    “Christianisation of education has steadily increased since Prime Minister Robert Menzies began eroding secular public schools in favour of government funding for Catholic education.”
    Don’t overlook that Menzies was largely forced into some of his decisions Prior to his errors in relation to school funding, he faced :
    – some of the fall out of the church of Rome’s
    “Dominate or Destroy” campaign against the Labor
    Party;
    – formation of the DLP, its presence in the Senate,
    and voting instructions from the pulpit;
    – the ridiculous charade that one of the wealthiest
    organisations on the planet could not afford civilised
    toilet facilities for the kids attending one of their
    schools in Melbourne.
    all at the instigation of an evil archbishop. Yes, Menzies got it wrong, but not as wrong as every prime minister since has with their attempts to buy the religious vote.

  12. Brian Morris

    Thanks ‘Once was a Liberal’ — I do agree with your points about the domineering authority of the catholic hierarchy but you have missed the underlying “political” machinations of Menzies. The DLP was catholic-based and Menzies wanted to drive a wedge between the DLP and ALP. He did that by pandering to DLP catholics and stepped in to initially fund the much needed toilets facilities in one of the catholic schools — but he then went much further than that and began the downward trend of using taxpayer money to finance all private catholic schools, which is now out of control.

    But the other point here is that a ‘secular’ government would have maintained Australia’s national education system as being “Free, Compulsory and Secular” — the way it had been for the previous 100 years! Without Menzies’ grubby political agenda, a secular government would have insisted the catholic church use its own vast wealth to build a new toilet block in one its own private schools!

  13. Matters Not

    Don’t think that Menzies actually provided toilets at St Brigid’s Primary School at Goulburn (the trigger for a strike affecting other schools) but he eventually did provide Commonwealth funds more broadly under Section 96:

    which authorises the Australian (Commonwealth) Parliament to grant financial assistance to any state on the terms and conditions that it sees fit, subject to acceptance by the state(s) concerned.

    Further, because the Russians were first into space at about this time, the US had begun to provide vast sums for improving maths and science education. That Space Race including the US funding response provided a rationale and opportunity for Menzies to do the same re science laboratories for all schools including religious schools. And funding grew from there. A great pity!

    The Labor Party remained opposed to State Aid (part of their policy platform) until the rise of Whitlam who crashed through that barrier and the party hierarchy couldn’t resist. Much has been written but that’s about the guts of it.

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