Religious ‘freedom’ and declining power

By December 27, 2018Australian Politics, Society

In his Christmas message, the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, has denounced “discrimination against people of faith”, which has left Christmas and Easter as two of the few times when religious expression is tolerated. He also bemoaned the fact that the government promised to do something about protecting religious freedom, but has, as yet, done nothing. Then, extraordinarily, he said “Indeed, we’ve gone backwards and discrimination against people of faith has become more acceptable in some quarters.”1

This is effectively just a rehash of his recent whining against state laws which require reporting of child abuse even if heard in the confessional. This is his main concern; the fact that Catholic priests could be charged with covering up child abuse if they do not report it to police after hearing a confession from a perpetrator2. This is what he calls discrimination: not being allowed to protect child abusers.

He continued: “We’ve witnessed moves to make the celebration of the sacrament of confession illegal, to defund church schools, to charge an archbishop with discrimination for teaching about marriage and to deny faith-based institutions the right to choose what kind of community they will be”. The first of these is a lie. There are no moves to make confession illegal, simply that it should respect civil law and not protect the most disgusting of criminals3. There are certainly comments about defunding religious schools, but no moves to do so from either major party. The charging of an Archbishop with discrimination is also a lie. The complaint against the Archbishop of Hobart was that he sent out a pamphlet stating that same-sex marriage was ‘messing with kids’, thereby implying criminal activity. It was that implication which was at issue4. There is no denial of faith-based institutions the right to choose what kind of community they will be. There are no moves to do this, so long as these organisations obey civil law and common law. But that is the point. These organisations do not want to obey the law like the rest of us; nor do they want to pay tax like the rest of us; nor do they want to be held up to scrutiny like most other organisations can be. They believe they should be above the law that you and I have to obey, lest we be punished.

This is not about discrimination against people of faith; it is removing them from their extremely privileged perch from which they have, for many hundreds of years, look down on everyone else. It is the loss of power and influence which is what mostly concerns the church hierarchy. If they lose that power and influence in society; their power and influence over their flock will decline very soon thereafter, and they will have to toe the same line the rest of us do. That is what scares them the most.



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