Passing Bull 294 –Religion?

The Commonwealth, or at least the Prime Minister, feels the need to make a law about religion.  He has introduced a Religious Discrimination Bill.  I will take the government’s statements at face value.  To put it softly, there are plenty who don’t.  For reasons I will come to, my reading of the Bill hardly got past the definition section.

A lot of people argued that the Racial Discrimination Act goes too far in outlawing statements said to constitute racial discrimination.  The question for them is: What is it that the law forbids you to do today that you wish to be free to do tomorrow? 

A different question arises under this new law.  What are people free to do to you today which you would have the law forbid them from doing tomorrow? 

No one has ever suggested to me a plausible answer to either question.

But before we get to that, there is a prior question.  What is this law about?  If the Commonwealth wants to make a law about companies or race, it will say what it means by those words.  This bill does not define religion.  That is extraordinary – to put it at its lowest. 

What may or may not be classed as ‘religion’ is politically charged, as charged as the issue of state aid or tax relief to ‘religious’ schools.  Someone claiming to make a law about that might at least say what they mean – rather than leaving it to others to do so.  As people say now, that is kicking the can down the road – to people who have not been elected to make laws.

While I was President of the Tax Division of the Victorian AAT in 1987, I had to decide whether The Free Daist Communion of Australia Ltd was a body associated for religious purposes.  (Reported at (1987) 2 VAR 133.)  A man called Da Free John started The Dawn Horse Communion and The Laughing Man Institute.  The Crown did not allege fraud or a sham, but there was tension in our community because in 1983, the High Court had held that scientology was a religion – when most Australians thought that it was as fake as it was dishonest. 

In view of the position of the Crown, I thought I had to hold that this body was religious.  (And I think that was the only decision in 18 years adverse to the Crown that was not appealed.)

As I saw it, the two main criteria were belief in the supernatural – that bears on the conduct of the faithful.  Counsel for the Crown, Joseph Santamaria, a friend of mine, later that said my reasoning was: all religion is bull; this outfit is full of bull; therefore it is religious.  No, Joseph – but I did say that you do not disqualify a body from being religious merely by showing that it sounds stupid or fake.  Or evil.

‘Truth’ is not a criterion of faith.  And I am not aware of any scriptural foundation of a faith that does not contain some matter of division or hate, or some other threat to the common weal.  Ultimately people of faith are driven to the position that religious faith is unfounded – except for theirs.

The breadth of tolerance from the High Court troubled many people.  And it comes with a heavy price.  We are expressly warned that charlatanism is ‘a necessary price of religious freedom.’

Well, it is a matter for Catholics, Jews, Muslims and others whether they want to be put in the same box as the Church of Scientology.  The question is whether they will be joined by Muslims espousing the adoption of Sharia Law, or practitioners of Voodoo, or those justifying the cleansing of Rohingyas, or a principled spiritual opposition to vaccination.  Or the KKK.  And the first to attempt that answer – which is fraught and tricky – must be the parliament.

May an aged lapsed Protestant offer one comment?  I do not profess the faith, but my life has been shaped by the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.  I am revolted that the loudest noise to support this new law comes from people who profess to lobby – that is their ghastly political phrase – for those who follow that faith, while supporting an apostle of hate, who is the brainwashed victim of a cruel cult that ought to have no place among us.

I will request my federal MP to oppose this bill until government comes clean about its purposes.  I am sick of government pussyfooting about and treating me as if I had come down in the last shower.  The effrontery of this government is boundless.  And we must urgently review any tax relief to those who threaten us with Hell.  They are outrageous.

Passing Bull 294 –Religion?

The Commonwealth, or at least the Prime Minister, feels the need to make a law about religion.  He has introduced a Religious Discrimination Bill.  I will take the government’s statements at face value.  To put it softly, there are plenty who don’t.  For reasons I will come to, my reading of the Bill hardly got past the definition section.

A lot of people argued that the Racial Discrimination Act goes too far in outlawing statements said to constitute racial discrimination.  The question for them is: What is it that the law forbids you to do today that you wish to be free to do tomorrow? 

A different question arises under this new law.  What are people free to do to you today which you would have the law forbid them from doing tomorrow? 

No one has ever suggested to me a plausible answer to either question.

But before we get to that, there is a prior question.  What is this law about?  If the Commonwealth wants to make a law about companies or race, it will say what it means by those words.  This bill does not define religion.  That is extraordinary – to put it at its lowest. 

What may or may not be classed as ‘religion’ is politically charged, as charged as the issue of state aid or tax relief to ‘religious’ schools.  Someone claiming to make a law about that might at least say what they mean – rather than leaving it to others to do so.  As people say now, that is kicking the can down the road – to people who have not been elected to make laws.

While I was President of the Tax Division of the Victorian AAT in 1987, I had to decide whether The Free Daist Communion of Australia Ltd was a body associated for religious purposes.  (Reported at (1987) 2 VAR 133.)  A man called Da Free John started The Dawn Horse Communion and The Laughing Man Institute.  The Crown did not allege fraud or a sham, but there was tension in our community because in 1983, the High Court had held that scientology was a religion – when most Australians thought that it was as fake as it was dishonest. 

In view of the position of the Crown, I thought I had to hold that this body was religious.  (And I think that was the only decision in 18 years adverse to the Crown that was not appealed.)

As I saw it, the two main criteria were belief in the supernatural – that bears on the conduct of the faithful.  Counsel for the Crown, Joseph Santamaria, a friend of mine, later that said my reasoning was: all religion is bull; this outfit is full of bull; therefore it is religious.  No, Joseph – but I did say that you do not disqualify a body from being religious merely by showing that it sounds stupid or fake.  Or evil.

‘Truth’ is not a criterion of faith.  And I am not aware of any scriptural foundation of a faith that does not contain some matter of division or hate, or some other threat to the common weal.  Ultimately people of faith are driven to the position that religious faith is unfounded – except for theirs.

The breadth of tolerance from the High Court troubled many people.  And it comes with a heavy price.  We are expressly warned that charlatanism is ‘a necessary price of religious freedom.’

Well, it is a matter for Catholics, Jews, Muslims and others whether they want to be put in the same box as the Church of Scientology.  The question is whether they will be joined by Muslims espousing the adoption of Sharia Law, or practitioners of Voodoo, or those justifying the cleansing of Rohingyas, or a principled spiritual opposition to vaccination.  Or the KKK.  And the first to attempt that answer – which is fraught and tricky – must be the parliament.

May an aged lapsed Protestant offer one comment?  I do not profess the faith, but my life has been shaped by the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.  I am revolted that the loudest noise to support this new law comes from people who profess to lobby – that is their ghastly political phrase – for those who follow that faith, while supporting an apostle of hate, who is the brainwashed victim of a cruel cult that ought to have no place among us.

I will request my federal MP to oppose this bill until government comes clean about its purposes.  I am sick of government pussyfooting about and treating me as if I had come down in the last shower.  The effrontery of this government is boundless.  And we must urgently review any tax relief to those who threaten us with Hell.  They are outrageous.

Religion – Cults – Morrison – ACL

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