Sorry Mr Shorten, It’s Not the Role of the State to Shape our Children’s Values

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I said here last year that the changes to the Marriage Act would not usher in a slippery slope, but were in fact signs of a precipice.

That, in less than 12 months since the plebiscite, this has proven to be the case should be no surprise.

And the evidence is mounting.

So when did it become acceptable to not merely think, but to declare unequivocally on matters of sexuality, that it’s primarily the role of the state to teach values to our children?

Yet this morning our alternate Prime Minister (and all the polls indicate that he’ll be PM by mid next year) said exactly that in relation to the furore around the Ruddock Review of Religious Freedom.

The West Australian newspaper reported today that Mr Shorten said he was pleased that both sides of politics were now united on protecting children, but wider changes were needed.

These laws are no longer appropriate, if indeed they ever were appropriate. It’s time our laws reflected the values we teach our children.

It’s statism at its boldest.  The state will always over-reach.

That’s what we mean by precipice.

Who gets to decide what values we value? The mediating institutions such as family, faith communities, volunteer organisations?

Or is it the role of the state?

The state is no big fan of mediating institutions.  The modern western state has become like Selley’s gap-filler, always looking to fill the spaces that it sees (often after hollowing them out in the first place).

Wherever you see a culture with very few, or indeed no, mediating institutions (think of a blighted city that has huge unemployment, drug issues and violence), the state is either more than happy to fill the void, or else is required to.

And for all of the variables of religious freedom it’s intriguing, but not surprising, that the main focus this past week has betrayed the desire of the state to be in control of values input in the education of children.  It was ever thus in state overreach.  Read your history.

For all of the “No, no, no, we would never turn gay children away from our schools!”, from well meaning folk in Christian education, the issue was never about the students.

Or to paraphrase Rev Lovejoy’s wife:

“Won’t somebody please think of the teachers!”

Hence LGBTQI spokesman Brian Grieg – who lives in the suburb next to me and with whom I’d be keen to sit over coffee and talk about this – belled the cat when he said today that discrimination against LGBTI people in faith-based schools was overwhelmingly against teachers — not students.

“The rushed legislation by the Government, backed by Labor, is in fact a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist.”

Bingo.  Nailed it.  Said it like it is.

I get the feeling faith-based schools have been happy to hide behind the smokescreen of students, because it conveniently hides the real issue of teaching staff.  Many faith-based schools have thought that if they “tut-tutted” enough about the student issue,  they’d perhaps be seen as “right on” and be allowed to get on with their thing.

But you can’t sate the insatiable state.

Hence it’s “their thing” – values inculcation – that an overreaching state has the most interest in.

And Brian Grieg has named it. And Bill Shorten supports that. As our alternate Prime Minister.

And all of this has happened in the space of one week, in which the Ruddock Review has not been officially released, but has merely been leaked to the media.

And I don’t say any of the above because I am shocked by the outcome.  Nor because I believe that the government owes us taxation money to educate our children our way.  It doesn’t.

But I’m just a little bit amazed by how quickly the conversation has moved to this point.  It was always going to get there because the same sex marriage vote was not a slippery slope issue at all, it was precipitous.

Does any of this mean that Jesus is not King? Of course not.  Let’s rejoice in that.  Let’s ensure that we thicken up our Christian communities and remind people that they’re not just going to be considered weird, but if they act like Jesus – dangerous as well.

Does it mean that we shouldn’t suck it up if it happens and pay the cost that that entails? Of course not.  The cost is probably a lot less than most of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world are paying even now.

And if you want an example of that, read what is happening in China, or take a look at the case of the young woman accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.

Never mind that she’s facing the death penalty, she’s spent nine years in jail waiting for a verdict.  Nine years!

But how soft we have it (and don’t so many want to remind us of that)  it doesn’t mean that it’s something neutral.

It’s a precipitous decision to hand over the inculcation of values to the state.  And not only to a state, but to a state that will attempt to limit mediating institutions espousing different values altogether.  There’s no neutrality there, for all of secularism’s special pleading.

Over time, once enacted – and it surely will be enacted – such legislative moves will bring significant change to how we shape and prepare our mediating ethical communities.  And we’d better be preparing for that right now.

We’d better be preparing rich, thick communities that statism and its values cannot penetrate emotionally, regardless of whether or not they have the power to curtail their involvement in the public square.