Religion in Australia

Sydney Anglican Media is asking, Is Government Set to Remap Religion In Australia? Apparently there are some concerns that the Australian government, under the auspices of the Australian Human Rights Commission, may be gearing up to enact anti-proselytism laws and ban criticism of other belief systems on the grounds of defending social harmony.

Rev Dr Andrew Cameron is quoted as saying, “The project could be a good thing if it brings to light any inappropriate limitations on the freedom of religion and belief … or, it may be unhelpful if it recommends changes that damage the delicate balance of religion freedoms that have developed in Australian life. We don’t know yet. But this is an important enough project that some of us want to do our part to be actively involved as citizens.”

I suspect we’re going to find ourselves in the position of defending Islamic freedom in order to defend Christian freedom.

19 thoughts on “Religion in Australia

  1. Don’t like the sound of it all.
    Under the guise of being “anti-discriminatory” such a move by government would be anti-freedom of choice and anti-freedom of religion.
    What if someone from one religion wanted to compare their faith with another? Could they do so without prosecution?
    What if they consulted someone from the other religion? Would that person be prosecutable for criquing and comparing different theological concepts beliefs etc.?
    What if someone chose to convert? Gaol, lawsuits etc. against them or the church/mosque/synagogue/temple/etc they chose to join?
    It amounts to the State attempting to seize control over people’s religion, which I think is totally inappropriate.
    It would also be very interesting to find out what religions those driving this move come from. Maybe some hidden religious agendas.
    I don’t trust the State when it does stuff like this.

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  2. This is what I don’t get. Of all the Christians I know, of all the services and small groups I’ve attended, I’ve never heard anyone say we need our religion protected from criticism. Even when discussing strictly politics there’s never been any talk of bringing in protectionist laws.
    So who is going to the governments of our day and saying “listen, we need a law to do this, and a law to protect that?” It certainly isn’t religious people as far as I can tell.
    That’s what bothers me… actually it unsettles me lot. I don’t like being patronised and all I see is if the government can make a law to protect my sensibilities it can use that law against me to protect others sensibilities.

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  3. I see a big connection between this topic and the thread on The Politics of Resurrection. Law-making is one of the powers that society uses to enforce order in society. Some of the current law-makers do not do adequate research on cause and effect issues in relation to legislation. Hence, some of the ramifications and consequences are unintended. Legislating unneccessarily is like raising the dead when an inoculation isn’t even necessary!
    I too wonder who the lobbyists are on the religion issue. I don’t see anything particularly out of order or unharmonious in the freedom of religious practise to which we have become accustomed here in Australia that warrants remedial or preventative government action.

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  4. Andrew, I am playing a wait and see approach here. Similar noices where made when the anti-villification laws were introduced, about it being a threat to freedom and so forth, yet the only people that I have heard of being charged under it so far sounded like they really deserved to be changed. For me it depends on how carefully they define the difference between “disagreeing” with other religions and “denigrating” other religions. If they carefully differentiate, as laywers are quite capable of doing, I may even support it. If they do not carefully differentiate I would actively oppose it. Same with proselytism – what do they actually mean by that? For instance, there are many Christians who carefully differentiate between evangelism and proslytism. Steve Hayes, one of the regular commenters here, has written on the difference here
    http://www.orthodoxy.faithweb.com/evanpros.htm

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  5. Alex, I thinks its the non-Christians that have been doing the complaining. I think it was interesting that one of the persons quoted in this article, Elizabeth Murray, implied polytheistic religions required legal protection from monotheistic religions. I wonder if she was a Wiccan? Certainly sounded like a one.

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  6. Yes Lucy, we can probably all think of sorry examples of religious people behaving badly. But I don’t see too many bombs going off in the streets of Sydney. I would have thought current laws were adequate.

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  7. Matt, within the context of Steve Hayes’s article, which compares evangelism to proslyism, I agree with you.
    I also believe one should not denigrate or treat with disrespect another person’s culture or religion.
    So I am all for encouraging mutually respecful interfaith dialogue, for instance, when the opportunity arises. I frequently engage in that at times at my gym where many of the guys are Afghani Muslims. Have made some good friendships as a result of it.
    I guess what I am concerned about is that people need to be able to intelligently critique and debate beliefs, make informed and free choices about faith issues without undue political interference.

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  8. On the Religion Report on Radio National this morning an edited version of the 2008 Acton Lecture was aired. If you go to http://www.abc.net.au/rn/religionreport/stories/2008/2403434.htm#transcript
    the transcript (and downloadable podcast) is available.
    The title: Must Religion be a Threat to Liberty!
    Robert Sirico, the speaker, obviously speaks from a Catholic point of view, but if in fact it is non-Christians who are doing the complaining, some of the arguments that Robert uses are quite relevant to their reasoning about such matters. MPs could also be better informed by availing themselves of the salient points in the lecture. His main point is that true Christianity champions true freedom because it upholds the inviolability of the conscience before God, whereas an absolute secular state has no higher authority than itself and therefore with absolute power can be corrupted absolutely. Sirico draws on the NT passage where Jesus looks at a coin with the stamped image of Caesar and says to render unto Caesar what is due to Caesar and unto God what is due to God. Quite fascinating, I thought.
    In the case of having a voice in the religious freedom debate, I’m not sure that we would have to defend Islamic freedom or Jewish freedom or any other religious freedom, but more to the point, as a Christ follower, I’d have to defend the right to true freedom… then there’s always the debate on responsibility and tolerance to rehash, isn’t there?!

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  9. (Hi Matt, long time no see!)
    I completely agree with Andrew’s statement that “people need to be able to intelligently critique and debate beliefs, make informed and free choices about faith issues without undue political interference.” That said, there’s two assumptions running through the posts here.
    The first is that any limitation is a bad limitation. I don’t believe that to be the case – all freedoms have limitations (for every right there’s a responsibility etc). I’m not sure what reasonable limitations might look like in this case, but I am far from convinced that the Victorian religious vilification laws are unjust.
    The second is that there is no need for such laws. No, Christians don’t seem to be lobbying for these laws, and no, there aren’t bombs going off in Sydney. But then again I don’t know any Christians who’ve ever been persecuted for their beliefs. Sure, I’ve been engaged in some pretty heated discussions, but I’ve never experienced structural discrimination or physical violence. I don’t know very many Muslims, but even their stories are shocking…hijabs being ripped from heads; being too frightened to catch public transport; utterly horrific hate mail (and the hate mail from the church goers is often the worst!)…

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  10. (Hi Matt, long time no see!)
    I completely agree with Andrew’s statement that “people need to be able to intelligently critique and debate beliefs, make informed and free choices about faith issues without undue political interference.” That said, there’s two assumptions running through the posts here.
    The first is that any limitation is a bad limitation. I don’t believe that to be the case – all freedoms have limitations (for every right there’s a responsibility etc). I’m not sure what reasonable limitations might look like in this case, but I am far from convinced that the Victorian religious vilification laws are unjust.
    The second is that there is no need for such laws. No, Christians don’t seem to be lobbying for these laws, and no, there aren’t bombs going off in Sydney. But then again I don’t know any Christians who’ve ever been persecuted for their beliefs. Sure, I’ve been engaged in some pretty heated discussions, but I’ve never experienced structural discrimination or physical violence. I don’t know very many Muslims, but even their stories are shocking…hijabs being ripped from heads; being too frightened to catch public transport; utterly horrific hate mail (and the hate mail from the church goers is often the worst!)…

    Like

  11. (Hi Matt, long time no see!)
    I completely agree with Andrew’s statement that “people need to be able to intelligently critique and debate beliefs, make informed and free choices about faith issues without undue political interference.” That said, there’s two assumptions running through the posts here.
    The first is that any limitation is a bad limitation. I don’t believe that to be the case – all freedoms have limitations (for every right there’s a responsibility etc). I’m not sure what reasonable limitations might look like in this case, but I am far from convinced that the Victorian religious vilification laws are unjust.
    The second is that there is no need for such laws. No, Christians don’t seem to be lobbying for these laws, and no, there aren’t bombs going off in Sydney. But then again I don’t know any Christians who’ve ever been persecuted for their beliefs. Sure, I’ve been engaged in some pretty heated discussions, but I’ve never experienced structural discrimination or physical violence. I don’t know very many Muslims, but even their stories are shocking…hijabs being ripped from heads; being too frightened to catch public transport; utterly horrific hate mail (and the hate mail from the church goers is often the worst!)…

    Like

  12. (Hi Matt, long time no see!)
    I completely agree with Andrew’s statement that “people need to be able to intelligently critique and debate beliefs, make informed and free choices about faith issues without undue political interference.” That said, there’s two assumptions running through the posts here.
    The first is that any limitation is a bad limitation. I don’t believe that to be the case – all freedoms have limitations (for every right there’s a responsibility etc). I’m not sure what reasonable limitations might look like in this case, but I am far from convinced that the Victorian religious vilification laws are unjust.
    The second is that there is no need for such laws. No, Christians don’t seem to be lobbying for these laws, and no, there aren’t bombs going off in Sydney. But then again I don’t know any Christians who’ve ever been persecuted for their beliefs. Sure, I’ve been engaged in some pretty heated discussions, but I’ve never experienced structural discrimination or physical violence. I don’t know very many Muslims, but even their stories are shocking…hijabs being ripped from heads; being too frightened to catch public transport; utterly horrific hate mail (and the hate mail from the church goers is often the worst!)…

    Like

  13. (Hi Matt, long time no see!)
    I completely agree with Andrew’s statement that “people need to be able to intelligently critique and debate beliefs, make informed and free choices about faith issues without undue political interference.” That said, there’s two assumptions running through the posts here.
    The first is that any limitation is a bad limitation. I don’t believe that to be the case – all freedoms have limitations (for every right there’s a responsibility etc). I’m not sure what reasonable limitations might look like in this case, but I am far from convinced that the Victorian religious vilification laws are unjust.
    The second is that there is no need for such laws. No, Christians don’t seem to be lobbying for these laws, and no, there aren’t bombs going off in Sydney. But then again I don’t know any Christians who’ve ever been persecuted for their beliefs. Sure, I’ve been engaged in some pretty heated discussions, but I’ve never experienced structural discrimination or physical violence. I don’t know very many Muslims, but even their stories are shocking…hijabs being ripped from heads; being too frightened to catch public transport; utterly horrific hate mail (and the hate mail from the church goers is often the worst!)…

    Like

  14. Bec, hey there, nice to hear from you again. You know, I don’t disagree with you. As I said, I’m inclined to play wait and see, and see what’s actually on the table before I make a call. Be alert but not alarmed maybe? Ooh dear, what am I saying!

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