Thursday, November 13, 2014

Separation of church and state, or separation of state and church?

This comes from a Facebook discussion regarding the Victorian Labor Party's proposals to amend equal opportunity legislation so that Christian schools will be required to employ staff of other religious beliefs, or none.

Some Christian contributors to this discussion seem to actually think that this legislation is a good idea. Furthermore, because Australia is a secular democracy, its laws should reflect this. For this reason, Christians have no right to have their beliefs forced on others through legislation. From there, the discussion progressed to other hot button issues such as same sex marriage, abortion, and school chaplaincy programs.

My contributions are as follows.

It's all very well to talk about separation of church and state and points of constitutional law. Some Christians believe in dominion theology and dream of enacting a Christian government, but it's never going to happen. The real problem right now is separation of state and church, where the government will in effect be able to dictate to the church what it can and cannot teach. Victorian Labor's proposal to remove equal opportunity exemptions for religious schools are an example of this. This is a dangerous road to start travelling down. Where will it end? I wrote to Labor about this issue and they sent me a pro forma reply. There was nothing in their reply that assuaged my concerns. I don't trust them.

Someone them suggested to me that my concerns were misguided. This was my response:

All of those prospects are horrible. I disagree that these concerns are misguided. I'm pessimistic about gay marriage. We're supposed to believe that churches won't be affected, but I'm among those Christians who aren't convinced. it ever becomes legal, then eventually churches will be forced to marry gay couples who want a church wedding or face legal penalties. I'm not a parent so can't comment on chaplaincy programs. I don't think abortion will never be made illegal again, but I'll keep being involved in the pro life movement. I have attended several pro life protest rallies, not to attack those who have had abortions, but to make a peaceful statement against an unjust law. In doing this I I respect government authority, but if the government asks me to do something against God's law, then God's law comes first.

My final comment was as follows.

This legislation sets a dangerous precedent and I don't see any reason to think that it won't have implications for other faith based organisations. I don't trust Labor. Remember the 2001 Racial and Religious Tolerance Act? We all know how well that turned out. In 2002 the Islamic Council of Victoria took action against Catch the Fire Ministries after it held a teaching seminar on Islam, and some Muslims claimed they were offended simply because a seminar speaker told attendees what the Koran said. Catch the Fire Ministries ended up before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and the case took years to resolve. I remember making a submission on the draft legislation and raised my concerns about the potential for restrictions on religious discourse. Their assurances that there was nothing to worry about amounted to nothing. This is exactly what happened. Now whenever similar events are held, attendees are required to register beforehand, and they must also be a member of a church.

As for the Labor Party, as well as their poor stewardship of taxpayers money, the other thing I don't like about them is its apparent belief that social problems can be dealt with by passing legislation and controlling how people think. There are some good Christian people in the Labor Party, but in this debate, their voice is being ignored. When I vote in this election, I will not be voting for my preferred candidate so much as voting against Labor and against its attempts to interfere in religious matters.

1 comment:

Scottyboy said...

Re: your comments. The wording of the Equal Opportunity Act ensures that Women Only Gyms, and bars for Gays and Lesbians can exist without breaking the law.

I'm with you, that Labor cannot be trusted in this issue.