February 15, 2018

And So Round Two Begins

It didn’t take long, but at least my predictions about where the Yes campaign would continue to go after the success of the same sex marriage campaign are more accurate than any of the Test match cricket predictions I made all summer.

Having said all along that the vote would not settle the sexual identity matters in the public square, but would in fact be a precipitous event that would find the victors press for further increasingly invasive legislation, those behind the Yes campaign have not wasted any time getting over the Christmas lull.

So with the submissions to Phillip Ruddock’s Religious Freedom Review due by yesterday, (Valentine’s Day or Ash Wednesday depending on where you think the locus of love resides), the Equality Campaign has called for further legislation to end all discrimination in all areas of employment, including Christian schools and other organisations.

Not to leave things as they are.  But to wind things back.

Of course theirs is just one of the many submissions the inquiry will receive, so it’s not like this is the line that the review’s panel will take in handing down its conclusions.  But then again it’s amazing how a most recent minority position so readily took the cultural centre, and emboldened by that, it is ready to push a lot harder so again, and so quickly. Time will tell if it is over-reaching itself. I tend to think not.

In a report in the Sydney Morning Herald today, the Equality Campaign submission is quoted as saying:

Our primary position is that the religious exemptions that allow discrimination against LGBTI people in employment, education and delivery of goods and services and other areas should be repealed.

Interesting to dump employment, education and delivery of services into the same basket. But this is pretty much what one would expect the campaign to request, so no surprises there.  The revolution never sleeps.  You can read the whole article here.

And again no surprises when we read this concession:

Limited exemptions may be permitted for the training and appointment of ministers of religion or priests and other activities with a close nexus to religious observance, practice, teaching or worship.

“Limited exemptions may be permitted”.  How generous.  And how interesting. What is unfortunate, but entirely understandable, is that this loaded term fails to see that Christian schools, for example, see themselves as having a close nexus to religious observance.

The average Christian teacher in a faith based school views all of their life as their worship of God.  Just ask such a teacher in such a school!  They would be horrified to think their role was bifurcated from their lives of worship.  They view their roles as vocational in a deep sense.

In fact that’s why the relief teacher at a Christian school in WA was taken off the list.  The school’s religious framework – and no doubt its statement of faith and employee covenant – required assent to the historical and traditional Christian understanding of sexuality.

That story – and all of its attendant half-truths – blew up in WA (or was at least reported) the week after the SSM vote back in Nov, but lest we thought that issue had gone away, it becomes a central feature in the Herald’s article.  Be assured it will be a reference point from here on in, the truth or half-truths of the matter aside.

Of course even if such wind-back legislation came in to being, and even if all faith schools signed up to it, they’d still be able to employ who they wished to employ.  And any Christian school that held an orthodox view of sexual practice could find myriad ways to ensure that continues to be the case for its staff selections.  The deeper question is whether signing up to such legislation crosses a philosophical and faith Rubicon that we, as God’s people, should not deign to cross.  I tend to think it would.

All of this shows once again the poverty of understanding in our wider culture as to the role of religion both in public life, and the way that religion is profoundly shaping of everything that people do in their lives, both private and public.  Just as the foundational philosophies of everyone – often undeclared and un-critiqued – is profoundly shaping of their private and public lives.  I hope Ruddock and his team have the sophistication to see that.

The Herald reports:

In a separate submission, the NSW Parliament’s LGBTI working group said current exemptions “go too far” and serve to “entrench substantive inequality” against gay and lesbian Australians.

Here’s what’s interesting about that.  This submission “was backed by cross-party state MPs including Liberal Bruce Notley-Smith, National Trevor Khan, independent Alex Greenwich, Labor’s Penny Sharpe and the Greens’ Jenny Leong.”

We always lament the lack of bipartisan support in our Parliaments.  Here is a day for rejoicing surely! Political partisanship has been put aside on this issue, though the result will be a deeper cultural partisanship that politics will then have to spend a lot of energy damping down.

It’s just more proof, if ever we needed it, that when it comes to political umbrellas for the church in the coming days, there will be no place to hide from the coming storm, if the Ruddock review comes up withs similar recommendations.  Which is just as well we have a shelter from the storm that cannot be rocked by the strong tides of cultural change.

As I stated in my own submission to the Ruddock inquiry, the common good in a society is best served by a truly diverse ecosystem in which competing ideas are not simply tolerate, but encouraged and enabled by a state that does not govern with too heavy a hand.  But as Ben Domenech memorably put it:

Progressives want everything locally grown, except government.

Equality Campaign is hoping the heavy statist hand of government will do for it nationally what it itself has been unable to do by soft persuasion or hard advocacy at a local level.





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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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