Category Archives: Religion

Coalition finally standing up to religious lobby

Finally, the Liberals object to religious lobbyists dictating to ordinary Australians.

A member of Tony Abbott’s front bench said religious representatives were entitled to their views, but they weren’t shared by most Australians…

Coalition frontbencher Kevin Andrews said the issue was not as clear-cut as the religious representatives suggested.

“In my movement about Australia, that’s not the view that the great majority of Australians have at this stage,” Mr Andrews said.

Discovering the existence of separation of church and state, and realising that support for discrimination against gay people was now a minority view, Kevin then agreed to support marriage equality.

No, not really.

Reminding us why ALP inactivity is preferable to Liberal Party destructiveness

And the week of appallingly backwards and destructive policy by the Victorian Liberals continues:

Fury as Baillieu rams through pro-discrimination law

The Victorian Government has cast the rules of Parliament aside to reintroduce a bill that will allow faith-based groups to discriminate on grounds such as religion, marital status or gender.

Seriously, whenever there’s a terrible Labor government and you’re thinking “the Liberals can’t be any worse than this”, please remember – YES, THEY CAN.

UPDATE: You know what’s even more galling about this? That when Labor went to remove those exemptions for discrimination from the Act, they compromised and permitted religious organisations to discriminate on employees’ private lives so long as they could show a connection between the role and the ground. Religious schools could still sack the gay teacher, they just couldn’t sack the gay gardener.

But even that wasn’t good enough for the bigots. They needed to sack the gay gardener. Sanitarium needs to be able to sack the single mother. St Vincent’s Hospital needs to be able to sack the divorcee. How could they provide services if they can’t?

So what was the point of the ALP giving them the concessions they did? The ALP might as well have said, no, we’re not going to permit you to discriminate against employees on the grounds of what they do in their private life at all. Clearly you can’t compromise with these people.

Let’s hope that when this issue is revisited, next time Labor is in – and it had bloody well better be revisited – that Labor doesn’t even try compromising with the bigots. It’s not like they could be any more hostile to it, anyway.

I hope that these people live long enough to see gay marriage legalised and all forms of discrimination against gay people ended, I really do. Because unlike their victories, which are temporary and on the wrong side of history, once that psychological barrier is crossed, that’s it. Short of a collapse of civilization and the rise of a theocratic heart, they’ll never be able to undo it, any more than racists can revive apartheid or misogynists can take away women’s vote. I hope they live long enough to see it – and I hope we don’t have to wait all that long for the discrimination to end, either.

Things they don’t want to hear or see

I wasn’t going to comment on Robert Clark’s silly (and fucking outrageous) plan to get police to issue on the spot fines for swearing in public, until I read Dee Madigan’s remarks on The Drum and realised just how this is going to affect vulnerable people:

In fact, what is considered to be ‘normal community standards’ is highly subjective at the best of times. It should not be a decision made in the heat of the moment by a policemen who, let’s face it, would be unlikely to be objective about someone they are right in the middle of having a problem with.

And it means that any person in any sort of dispute with police has a way to be charged immediately. And this is where the new laws are most insidious.

Empirical evidence in New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory shows that laws which focus on offending behaviors have a disproportionate impact on juveniles and minority groups. For example, in Western Australia, Aboriginals are 15 times more likely to be charged for swearing. And in New South Wales, offensive conduct crimes also have a disproportionate impact on Indigenous communities, and more often than not are used to deal with young people who are deemed to be showing disrespect to authority.

So, while swearing doesn’t actually hurt someone (and no, being offended isn’t the same as actually being hurt), laws that punish people for swearing can become a form of social exclusion which can be incredibly damaging to the most vulnerable groups in our society.

That’s very true. I’ve written before about how laws targeting things like begging result in homeless people being locked up because they have neither money nor identification; this is just one more quiver in the bow of the nastiest members of the police force. The vulnerable who use coarse language because it’s all they’ve ever known, will find themselves lumped with fines they can’t possibly pay. The mentally-ill, the drug-affected, those focused on bare survival – in practice, this will be a tool to make life even more difficult for those only just hanging on.

And for what? To protect our precious, dainty ears from hearing centuries-old English words? For fuck sake.

ELSEWHERE: On the subject of morons imposing their ‘being offended” on the rest of us:

A billboard company has defended its decision to bow to pressure to remove advertisements promoting safe sex among gay couples.

HIV campaigners are outraged the safe sex promotion featuring a fully clothed, hugging gay couple has been pulled from Queensland bus shelters by Adshel.

The Queensland Association for Healthy Communities launched its “Rip and Roll” advertisements a week ago and yesterday learned they were being scrapped after about 30 complaints.

You can guess by whom:

Australian Christian Lobby: People power wins in removing offending ads

If you’ve got the stomach, you can read the actual complaints here.

Got that, people we have an irrational prejudice against?

UPDATE (4.45pm): After protests, Adshel has now reversed its decision, with one of the silliest excuses ever:

Adshel CEO Steve McCarthy said the company had been the “target” of a an organised campaign by the ACL. He said in a statement: “It has now become clear that Adshel has been the target of a coordinated ACL campaign. This has led us to review our decision to remove the campaign and we will therefore reinstate the campaign with immediate effect.”

Wait, so if the ACL hadn’t admitted its link that would’ve been okay? It’s not that the objections were fatuous and discriminatory – it’s that they were organised?

Shoddy Frankston rail line results in new local member who thinks being gay is equivalent to dangerous driving, assault and murder

Well, we have an early contender for douchenozzle of the week: new Victorian Liberal MP Geoff Shaw.

Here’s one of Mr Shaw’s constituents, a young gay man objecting to the Liberals’ new plan to restore discrimination against gay people, unmarried people etc if the discriminator is a religious organisation – even a commercial business owned by a religious organisation where the religion has precisely nothing to do with the conduct of the business:

In his letter, Mr Quilligan told Mr Shaw that churches should not be allowed to ”impose their beliefs on others … in non-religious/mainstream or secular settings”.

”I’m 20 in a week. I’m able to vote. I want to work, live and love freely during the course of my life, and I want to do that without thinking that I can’t,” he wrote.

And here’s the offensive and asinine reply fired back by Mr Quilligan’s representative in parliament:

Mr Shaw replied the same day, quoting Mr Quilligan’s line back at him and adding: ”What if I loved driving 150kms per hour in residential areas?

”What if there was a convicted sex offender who stated that, or a child molester? Can they still do what they want? Under your statement the answer is yes. What if one wanted to get drunk, take drugs, steal and murder? What if one loved this? Can they also do what they want without thinking that they can’t?”

Um, no, Geoff, those things involve infringing other people’s rights. Dangerous driving puts other members of the public at risk. Sexual assaults and child molesting and murder and theft all have victims. Drug-taking and drunkenness are health issues.

In contrast, being gay victimises no-one. Consenting gay partnerships do not take away other people’s rights.

Essentially, the crimes against other people that you list are fundamentally different from a gay person wanting not to be discriminated against by potential employers simply for being gay.

There’s no alternative conclusion to draw from that email: Mr Shaw is an idiot. He’s an idiot who thinks being gay is somehow like committing criminal offences against other people. Worse, he’s an idiot with a vote in state parliament who thinks that he and other bigots have a right to discriminate against employees on grounds that have nothing to do with their employment, and that you’re oppressing him if you take away his “right” to do so. His right to sack them for no good reason trumps their right to be treated fairly at work. If you want to use his fatuous and offensive analogies, he’s like the… what was it? Oh yes, child molester, who argues that his imagined “right” to molest children, to wreck their lives to satisfy his own personal fantasies, is more important than their right to go about their day unmolested.

State Labor already left in massive discrimination exemptions, so that religious organisations and subsidiaries could sack employees on grounds of sexuality, marital status etc, so long if they could find a way that it was connected with their employment role.

But even that is not enough for the new “moderate” state Liberal government, already shaping up to be the worst since Kennett. No, religious organisations need to be able to sack the gardener for being gay. It’s the only way to keep their geraniums pure.

Oh, and you might have missed Mr Shaw’s maiden speech to parliament, which he opened with a parody of the “acknowledge the traditional owners of this land” recognition, acknowledging instead:

…the original owner of the land on which we stand – God, the Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Bible.

Ooh, snap. Take that non-Christian indigenous people unfortunate enough to live in Mr Shaw’s electorate.

Well done, people of Frankston. Pissed off about the shoddy trainline, this is who you’ve put into parliament to represent you. Excellent work.

Of course kids need one-sided religious indoctrination in school

As a fundamentalist heavily committed to using the school system to gain more converts for my religious sect, I was appalled this weekend to read a vicious attack on such a program in The Age:

Public debate on the issue was sparked by a Sunday Age revelation that the Education Department was forcing schools to host Christian religious education whether they wanted to or not.

It took a new turn last week when state Education Minister Martin Dixon granted $200,000 in extra funding to Christian religious education provider Access Ministries to improve its training.

Why are we talking about this? This transfer of public money to Christian organisations is supposed to be known by our congregations but ignored by the rest of you, so that the first you know about it is when little Jimmy comes home spouting Deuteronomy at you. It’s for their own good, even if you are too blinded by Satan to see it. Whilst I believe strongly that everyone will have a fair opportunity to come to my particular beliefs of their own free will so that later they can be judged by God according to whether they agreed with me and did what I told them to do or not, it’s clearly much easier to gain those converts when they’re young and trapped in school and our “lessons” can be presented to them as equivalent to less controversial subjects like Maths and Chemistry.

But now we have to come up with flimsy excuses for it. We’re, uh, just “educating” your child on important religions, not “indoctrinating” her. (Yes, there does only appear to be one important religion we talk about, but we’re completely objective about this faith to which we’ve dedicated our lives.) And we provide important care for your child when they come to us for counselling, all upset and nicely vulnerable to our message, I mean, our kindly independent adult advice. And, anyway, you always have the option of removing your children from our classes by traumatically separating them from their peers like the pariahs they will be if we have anything to do with it.


“Miss, is Jimmy whose parents took him out of this class going to Hell?” “Why yes, Sarah, of course he is. Let him know in the playground.”

Look, taking away our privileged position over the public school system would be an end to religious freedom in this country, defined as our freedom to impose our views on your children. What are you going to do? Vote against the politicians who keep giving your money to us? Yeah, good luck finding some.

Face it, if God didn’t want us wasting kids’ precious educational hours with religious indoctrination, He would have made Australia a secular democracy.

When should free speech on race be constrained?

There’s an interesting court case going on at the moment in Melbourne involving a trollumnist and some remarks he made about particular members of a particular ethnic group. The trollumnist in question and his specific views and that specific case are not the focus of this post, but rather the general question of where precisely the line on commentary on race and culture should be drawn.

Obviously, suggesting or implying that someone fraudulently claims benefits to which they should not be entitled is already covered by defamation. The point of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 is to extend protections to offended groups rather than individuals.

It is possible it went too far.

We’ll see how the Court interprets what Parliament legislated, but let’s discuss what we think the rule should be – even if that requires a change to the Act itself.

For my part, I’d agree that there should be some limit. If you had an ideologue calling for Jewish shopkeepers to have their shops smashed, that should be over the line. If you had a crank inciting hatred against Muslims by declaring that they were evil and inventing a whole host of outrageous smears against them – well, maybe that would cross the line, depending on how extreme those claims were and how likely they were to devolve into violence.

But if you have someone arguing, contrary to the evidence, that no remedial assistance is needed for a particular disadvantaged group that happens to have a racial or cultural link – well, maybe that’s just part of political debate.

Where should we draw the line? How about – beyond hurt feelings, at the point at which targets who didn’t read such an article start to feel real consequences from it.

NOTE: I won’t be publishing any comments that directly refer to a case currently being heard.

What if they were right?

The reason I don’t believe in God – and, believe me, I’ve tried – is that I could never get over the feeling that I was fooling myself. That I was choosing to believe in life after death because I did not like the idea of dying; that I was choosing to believe in a benevolent Creator who stood for fairness and justice because I didn’t like the idea that the Universe was indifferent to people’s suffering. Religion as wish-fulfillment.

But there are people who, once convincing themselves that God exists because it’s a comfort, then develop from that a version of God that is very much not a comfort. A rigid, unsympathetic, cruel God. A God that threatens appalling punishments for things that shouldn’t be crimes at all; a jealous, insecure God that demands to be worshipped according to this or that arbitrary set of writings. A God that wants his believers to dominate the unbelievers through any means necessary.

Where this comes up is something I was reading over at Fred Clark’s site about the way one would respond to proof of such a God. If the God of George Pell or Fred Nile or Jim Wallace or Pat Robertson suddenly revealed Himself, and denial and doubt was no longer a rational response, what would you do?

If I learned that such a God was real, I think I’d be done with praying. Learning — encountering absolute proof — that the universe is governed by power rather than by love, and that the only hope for survival was to pledge one’s allegiance to power against love, I would still not be inclined to offer that allegiance…

Or, in Mark Twain’s shorter version, “All right then, I’ll go to Hell.” The proper response to proof of LaHaye’s God would be neither submission nor denial, but opposition.

That’s not a response that LaHaye and Jenkins imagine anyone having when coming to terms with the proof of the cruel Power God of their story, this Almighty destroyer and co-conspirator with the Antichrist in the destruction of the world. But if you love this world or if you love anything or anyone in it, then what other response could you possibly have?

I think I’d do likewise. I’d hope I’d have the courage to do likewise. Just because something’s all-powerful doesn’t mean it’s right.

Nobody ever asks the people who demand obedience to cruel parts of their religious writings just why we should obey such strictures, if they don’t make sense. Say you’re completely right, and God has indeed laid down these laws – why should we obsequiously do His dirty work for Him? It doesn’t really matter whether it’s divinely endorsed or not: cruelty is cruelty, and it’s wrong.

ELSEWHERE ON CLARK: I’d never heard of John Woolman – an eighteenth century Quaker who almost single-handedly changed his religion’s approach from pro-slavery to anti-slavery:

John Woolman believed slavery was unjust — that it was cruel for those in bondage and corrosive for the bondsman. So he wrote an essay explaining why (“Some considerations on the keeping of Negroes: Recommended to the professors of Christianity of every denomination”). And then, since he was sure that his condemnation of slavery was true, and that the truth of it was compelling, he set out to talk to those who disagreed.

One by one, meetinghouse by meetinghouse, home by home. He would speak to gatherings of Friends, or would arrive for dinner at the home of Quaker slaveowners, and he would talk to them about his “considerations” and concerns with this practice. After the meal, he would pay wages to those slaves who had attended him. And he would invite the slaveowners to liberate their slaves, paying them back wages for their years of service.

Crazy. But even crazier: This worked. Conversation, liberation, transformation. That was Woolman’s method and he continued it, unchanged, throughout his life.

And you thought arguing with people on the internet was a waste of time. (Well, not you, obviously, but people around you.)

UPDATE: The Onion with a terrifying scenario of what could happen if they were right. But would you really worship such a God? (Elsewhere on The Onion: Pope To Ease Up On Jesus Talk.)

Trouble in Paradise

Some upsetting news regarding Pastor “Storming Heaven” Nalliah and the Australian “Christian” Lobby, as they bitterly fight amongst themselves:

So since I went out with this information last week, I have also been warned by ACL through a third party that they are planning to sue me. I do have it in writing. Is ACL, rather than holding SteriHealth accountable, in some way covering up and threatening to sue their own brothers for doing good.

I’m sure all Australia is praying that these crazy kids can get it together again.

ELSEWHERE: An American woman whinges about the deceptions in which the anti-abortion industry has to engage in order to fight The Good Fight.

And the Onion News Network reports on an innovative solution

Priorities

American Christians say NO to the world’s poor:

Overall, evangelicals were more likely to favor reductions in federal spending, but like other Americans, they wanted most areas to remain the same or increased.

The top choices among evangelicals for the chopping block are economic assistance to needy people around the world (56 percent), government assistance for the unemployed (40 percent), and environmental protection (38 percent). In each of these categories, evangelicals were more supportive of decreasing spending than are other Americans. In fact, evangelicals were more supportive of funding cuts in every area except military defense, terrorism defense, aid to veterans, and energy.

Slacktivist’s typically eloquent response:

To think that cutting humanitarian foreign aid will be of any consequence for balancing America’s federal budget is, in fact, stupid — it betrays an ignorance or rejection of readily available facts. To prioritize cuts to such programs is, in fact, selfish. The priorities revealed in this poll also demonstrate that evangelical voters aren’t really concerned about deficits per se — someone actually concerned about deficits would be obliged to learn at least the most basic facts of the federal budget — but are instead driven by the fear that somebody else somewhere else might be receiving some benefit that they are not receiving. That is resentment for resentment’s sake….

The zombie lie that budgets could be balanced if only we stopped giving away such generous foreign humanitarian aid is actually two lies combined. First there is the lie that America’s foreign humanitarian aid is particularly generous. It’s not. And second there is the lie that a reduction, or even an elimination, of this spending would have any noticeable or meaningful impact on the federal budget. The graph above shows what we are talking about — a tiny, tiny sliver of overall discretionary spending, which is itself a smallish portion of the overall budget.

I just don’t get how anyone who is opposed to the stuff the Jesus of the Bible actually talked about (sacrificing yourself to help the poor) can call themselves “Christian”.

And no, relentlessly campaigning against stuff he never mentioned like gay people and abortion doesn’t make up for it. It doesn’t make up for it at all.

Expelling gay students in NSW; restoring a discrimination free-for-all in Victoria

I’m not sure why anybody is surprised – this is exactly the exemption that the religious lobby here in Victoria fought so hard for last year:

A SENIOR Anglican bishop calls it “appalling” and a gay and lesbian rights group condemns it as “deeply offensive”, but the Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, backs a NSW law that allows private schools to expel gay students simply for being gay.

Through a spokesman, Mr Hatzistergos, described the 30-year-old law as necessary “to maintain a sometimes delicate balance between protecting individuals from unlawful discrimination while allowing people to practise their own beliefs”.

I suppose if a school community believed in expelling all the christian students, they’d be fine with that?

Respecting people’s beliefs is one thing. Permitting them to rely on those beliefs to discriminate in fundamental areas of life – like employment and education – is quite another.

And remember, this is 2011. That’s a present government Minister defending a law that lets schools expel kids just for being gay. Not for being disruptive, or argumentative, or in any way actually expressing their sexuality (as they bloody well should have as much right to do as any other student) – just for being gay and being found out and having had parents who put their educational futures in the hands of people who want them to hate themselves and therefore should have no business having children put in their care at all.

There is no excuse for this kind of cruelty to kids, and anyone who thinks their beliefs require them to do such a thing really needs to have a look at what kind of person they’ve become.

ELSEWHERE: And in Victoria the supposedly “moderate” Baillieu government is quickly revealing its true colours as it winds back even the extremely limited reforms Labor made in this area:

THE Baillieu government is preparing to restore unlimited rights to religious organisations to discriminate against gays and lesbians, single mothers and people who hold different spiritual beliefs…

Under the Labor reforms, for instance, a religious welfare agency that refuses to serve a same-sex couple must prove how this action conformed to its faith, or a Catholic school that refused to employ a single mother as a receptionist must show why the job was important to following the school’s faith.

But this so-called ”inherent requirements” test would soon be scrapped, Mr Clark said in an interview with The Sunday Age.

Because it’s vital to a religious school’s functioning that the lesbian receptionist be sacked.

Funnily enough, I doubt they’d be happy with secular schools sacking Christian receptionists…