The nonsense about ‘religious freedom’ just keeps going – even after the blessed exit of the man from Hillsong.
As Kant said, no one can stop you praying to God. But if God, or Allah, calls on you to follow Him in dealing with other people, you may have to confront Caesar. And if God puts you in conflict with Caesar, our community says that Caesar must prevail.
We would not I think be having this discussion if people of some faiths did not wish to treat differently people of different sex or sexuality – women and gay people. And those people wish to be able to do that in a way that discriminates against people. But Caesar has banned that discrimination. This claim for ‘religious freedom’ is therefore a claim for a kind of privilege – a dispensation from the general law on the ground of religious belief, and nothing else.
I regard this as offensive as it is silly.
We are not talking about beliefs, but conduct – when people of faith seek to give effect to their beliefs in ways that affect other people. And where they then harm others. In our polity, my freedom ends when my exercise of it might hurt you. And there is no doubt that what some people want to do to people of a different faith or sexuality hurts those people.
So, the law cannot control what I believe, but it must control what I do. And I cannot be heard to say that Caesar should license me to discriminate against some people just because God says that I can or must do so. Some may cite scripture to support that case. I would not.
On that ground, I would oppose altering our laws to accommodate people of faith.
There is another ground. Good friends of mine are Anglican or Catholic – and real ones: they are in communion with their church. We may waffle on about the differences between them, but my own position is simple. People of faith believe that all faiths have no sufficient basis except one – theirs. I have no exception. I think they are all up the creek. But, viewed from the eye of eternity, or God, every faith is a minority in the world at large. It just depends which side of the street, or border, you are born on.
The reason for these insoluble differences of religion is clear. We are talking of issues of faith, not logic. No one can ‘prove’ their case in this arena – although a lot of otherwise very bright people thought they had. Faith is beyond logic.
When people speak of the word of God, they refer to what someone else said God has said, as interpreted by God knows how many wise men through the ages. It is, if you like, a combination of hearsay and opinion evidence. But it is a matter of religious belief that is wholly fallible. By definition, that must be the case with issues of faith. You may get a rock to build a church on, but not a case to change our laws in ways that may hurt others. No faith can be universal – or applied universally.
On that ground also, I would reject any change of our laws to accommodate some people of faith. If you believe that humanity is moving upwards, it must in some part because we are continuing to cut down our reliance on the supernatural. Australia is not a religious nation, and we should not be changing our laws to suit those who wish we were.
There is one other issue. Some people of faith are agitating these issues in ways that are in my view not just groundless, but actually harmful to others. It is an irony that people claim to be victims of discrimination as a minority – because they wish to discriminate against another minority. When, across the world, any faith must be a minority.
The Australian Christian Lobby, a frightful contradiction in terms, looks the worst. They want to sponsor arguments that will cause division in the community and pain to many in it. That they do so purportedly in the name of a man loved and revered through history makes it so much harder to bear.
But their conduct shows the need for our lawmakers to look closely at any grounds in our laws, relating to charities, corporations or tax, that gives them or anyone like them any relief from or protection against our general laws. It is wrong that the community as a whole should be giving aid to those working against others in that community.
I will instruct my parliamentary members accordingly. Who knows? This may be the moment for those phantoms – the silent majority or quiet Australians. The noise from a zealous minority has served to drown out sense and fairness for far too long.
Politics- ACL – God – faith – logic.