What to make of the religious freedom debacle:
Plenty of commentary has already been offered on the rise and fall of the Religious Discrimination Bill, so I will not repeat all the details here. The bottom line is this: it seems to be well and truly dead in the water. And many can take responsibility for this, including the Prime Minister himself.
A bit of background. When homosexual marriage was debated and then legalised in Australia, both main parties assured us that religious freedom would not be impacted. (That of course was always a lie, and we have seen countless cases of religion under assault since then.) So the idea of a bill like this was discussed back then.
Scott Morrison of course made it a major election promise. Recall that he was elected back in May 2019. So he has basically sat on this promise until just this week – far too little, far too late. With a handful of sitting days left, it never had a chance to be properly debated and approved. So it seems Morrison was not all that keen on it as he had let on.
And of course with threatened amendments to be added in the Senate, and with five renegade “moderate” Libs joining with Labor, things just went from bad to worse, so all that could be done was to drop it altogether – at least until after the federal election in May.
So now we are back to square one. As I just said in a radio interview, while it is business as usual for conservatives and Christians, the other side continues to fervently work to achieve their aims. They want even more religious freedoms stripped away from us and even more pro-militant agenda items implemented and promoted everywhere, including in our churches and Christian schools.
A couple of big picture items need to be raised. While many Christians thought that such a bill was a good idea, not everyone did. The problem with a bill like this, like the broader notion of bringing in a Bill of Rights to Australia, is that it tends to politicise everything and codify rights, giving judges and lawyers the most power.
Simply making more laws tends to be unhelpful in many cases – and that is true here. Some Libs like NSW Premier Perrottet have argued that bills like this are not needed. They tend to be a heavy-handed approach to what is often the stuff of sensitive pastoral situations (helping confused students deal with identity questions, and so on).
In the codifying of rights we often end up with judge-made rights. Judicial activism is real, and bills like these only give them more power. If the various human rights bodies that already exist have too much power and tend to side with the secular left over against the religious right, then adding even more Federal powers in this regard via such a bill would have been a wrong way to go.
It is the same with calling for a Bill of Rights in Australia. It is better to rest such matters on things like common law, etc. The creation of even more laws and bureaucratic bodies is seldom a panacea here. As I said back in 2005, there are at least ten reasons why we should avoid heading down this route: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2005/08/07/what-is-wrong-with-a-bill-of-rights/
And as Queensland National Senator Ron Boswell said in a piece I wrote in 2009:
This is effectively a huge wish list from the Australian Human Rights Commission who would become a bloated organisation with greatly expanded powers to inquire into any act of a federal public authority that might be inconsistent with the definitive list of rights. Courts are to be the ultimate arbiters of whether unlawful discrimination has occurred. This is where churches stand to lose their ability to employ people who share their values. The committee tries to stop the courts having a role in relation to economic, social and cultural rights, but that division in itself would be a mess for lawyers to argue over which right fell into which category. https://billmuehlenberg.com/2009/10/08/a-bill-of-rights-is-wrong-wrong-wrong/
That is still true today, and if a bill like this has been passed, we would have seen more such power grabs and expanding bureaucracies. Thus many of us had had problems all along with heading down this path. But the real problem is this: some of us were warning many decades ago that this war on faith and freedom would escalate if we went with special rights for homosexuals and sought to legalise homosexual marriage.
But our warnings largely fell on deaf ears. The church should have been awake and aware of this many decades ago, and taken action back then to try to head some of this off at the pass. But now Pandora’s Box is well and truly open, and there is almost no chance of turning things around at this late stage.
And as I say, the militants on the other side will just keep working away, pushing for ever more special rights at the expense of ordinary Australians – especially religious Australians. Thus if they did not get their way this week on things like clause 38(3) of the Sex Discrimination Act, just give them a bit more time. If Labor wins the Federal election, this will be on top of their hit-list.
For those unaware of what this section says, it is this:
Nothing in section 21 renders it unlawful for a person to discriminate against another person on the ground of the other person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy in connection with the provision of education or training by an educational institution that is conducted in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion or creed, if the first-mentioned person so discriminates in good faith in order to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion or creed.
This is just one of the things the activists (and the five lefty Libs) want changed. They do not want religious institutions and schools to have ANY ability to enforce its biblical ethos and beliefs and practices. They want to see all Christian schools (and eventually all churches) so gutted that they cannot stand up in the slightest for any basic Christian values, certainly in the area of sexuality.
Even a non-Christian like Mark Latham is fully aware of what is going on here. He said this about such proposed changes:
Please understand what insane Morrison has facilitated: A 14yo boy attends a religious school announcing that he’s now a girl and wants access to the girls’ toilets/change rooms. Access denied. Leftwing gender activists can now take the school to the Human Rights Commission. Ending the Sex Discrimination Act exemptions for religious schools was never about caring for students. It is to empower Leftwing gender activists to drag the schools before ‘human rights’ tribunals in a political campaign of harassment.
Yes exactly. The non-religious Latham is far more cluey on these matters than most Christians are! He knows full well the endgame of all this. Yet our “Christian” Prime Minister seems not at all to have been aware of this, or in fact supported it. Indeed, given how he just recently sided with the homosexual activists against a Christian school in Brisbane, he cannot be counted on at all to help us here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/02/08/much-needed-clarity-on-christian-schools/
Although we have this update from today’s press:
One of the government’s most senior ministers says Prime Minister Scott Morrison was misled on how his party would vote on proposed religious discrimination laws, leading to a major government defeat in parliament. . . . Defence Minister Peter Dutton told the ABC the defeat was unexpected because MPs had given their word they would not cross the floor. “He was frankly, I think, misled,” Mr Dutton said. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-11/morrison-misled-by-moderate-liberals-on-religious-discrimination/100821902
Be that as it may, as I said in my radio interview moments ago, all sides can take some blame here. But clearly this has been another mess-up by the government. As it seeks to be such a ‘broad church,’ inclusive of so many political points of view, it is becoming less and less conservative by the day.
Indeed, we see in the two major parties a general move to the left. What was once centre-right is now really centre-left. The Liberals are becoming increasingly unreliable in representing any conservative and Christian values. That leaves conservatives and Christians wondering where to turn at the upcoming federal election.
With the two main parties becoming indistinguishable from one another, where do these folks go? It seems some 30 per cent of the electorate is looking elsewhere – be it smaller parties, independents, and so on. But as I also said at the end of my interview today, there is one good thing to come from all of this.
As we are losing any viable political options and help, that leaves Christians going back to where they always should have been: radically seeking God for help. Politics will not save us. ScoMo and the Libs will not save us. Only God can get us out of the swamp we are now in.
Of course I am not saying we should not stay involved in politics and social and cultural issues. We must continue to fight on all fronts. But we must keep recalling that at the end of the day, it is only as we fully engage in the spiritual battle that we can have any hope of seeing a few wins in the political battles.
Our current political options are drying up and leaving us hopeless, but we need to be where there is always hope: God. So let me encourage Christians who are becoming increasingly discouraged at the growing darkness all around them to get down on their knees and redouble the most important task of all: seeking God, praying fervently, and asking him to break through in a hopeless situation.