The Lord’s Prayer in Victorian Parliament: Be careful what we ask for

We need more prayer, not less prayer. In a season when we have been reminded of our mortality and the acute limitations of being human, the wise learn how much more do we need Divine grace, wisdom, and strength. Instead of praying, the Victorian Parliament is arguing about Christianity again! This time, the dispute is over the Lord’s Prayer and whether it has a place inside Spring St.

Fiona Patten is introducing a motion to have the Lord’s Prayer replaced with a moment’s silence at the start of each Parliamentary sitting. The Legislative Council member from the Sex Party (sorry, it’s know called the ‘Reason Party) believes that our pluralistic society should exclude this prayer. Okay, I am being slightly facetious. Patten’s reasoning is that many Victorians are not Christian and the prayer discriminates against other religions and Victorians with no religious affiliation. 

Premier’s Chair!

What would I decide? Of course, I’m not sitting in the Premier’s chair nor in any chamber at Parliament. As a Christian minister living and serving in Victoria I do have some thoughts.

Fiona Patten has a point although it’s not without reasonable rebuttal. Reading the Lord’s Prayer in the Parliament serves to perform two important functions in our society. First, this is an audible reminder to Victorians of the fact that Australia has been profoundly and positively shaped by Christianity. The prayer offers both an historical and cultural connection to the worldview that has provided vital and foundational influence on Australian life. The Lord’s Prayer serves as one of the few remaining signals in Parliament to our nation’s Christian past. This is a past that many wish to have erased although doing so will also remove the very foundations upon which our society depends for stability, tolerance, and viability. 

Second, the Lord’s Prayer is a salient reminder of our humanity and our dependence on God who is Sovereign and good. We ultimately need a God of Biblical proportions to give us wisdom and understanding as we lead, serve and live. 

However, what’s missing in this debate is an explanation of what the Lord’s Prayer is about. This prayer which brings great comfort is also dangerous to pray. The words Jesus taught are not vague spiritual notions; nice and innocuous. In anything, the Lord’s Prayer should probably come with a warning sign or some kind of disclosure before reading. Indeed, there are bigger and better reasons for avoiding this prayer (and for praying it). Let me explain.

The prayer begins with Jesus addressing,

“‘Our Father in heaven,”

Jesus invites us to call God, Father. This is an incredibly wonderful idea and it’s one that’s unique to Christianity. To know God as Father suggests that he is not an impersonal being, but he is relational and personal. What a remarkable concept Jesus is teaching!

However, God is not everyone’s Father, and it’s imprudent to call him such. It is inappropriate for any child to call me dad, only my children can do that. Similarly, only God’s children can truly address him as Father. It is exclusive and yet it is also wonderfully inclusive, for no one is born Christian but we are adopted by grace, a gift from God. The Bible shows us that the privilege of knowing God as Father comes through faith in his Son. This is one of the great possibilities that’s opened in Christianity, we can come to know God as Father.

It is either a bold or very foolish politician who addresses God as Father if they have not first put their faith in his Son. 

Notice also how the Lord’s Prayer petitions God to end this fallen world and to judge wrongdoing,

“your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.”

This prayer is asking  God to bring an end to all sin, evil ,and death, and to judge the guilty. It is also an appeal for God to unveil his rule publicly and universally that we might live under and enjoy eternity with him in the new creation. Are we ready to pray for Divine judgment on the Victorian Parliament, and all our attitudes and actions? 

The Lord’s Prayer recognises God who provides our daily provisions and who is able to do the harder work, of forgiving us our sins: “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Such a petition is humbling, requires honesty, and it  provides a stunning possibility; Divine forgiveness. There is a hypocrisy and hubris to ask God for forgiveness and to speak words that depend on a crucified and risen Christ while neither intellectual or heart assent to them. 

If we’re being honest, prayer can act like a placebo, serving to trick my  consciousness into believing everything will work out. Prayers, even in many churches, have become about upholding tradition rather than the intended purpose which is about knowing and delighting in God. One cannot read this prayer with understanding and come to those conclusions.

Fiona Patten’s reasons for removing  the Lord’s Prayer isn’t really about pluralism, it is simply the latest move in the Victorian Parliament to  further diminish the role Christianity holds in our society.

I understand why some Christians (and even unbelievers) are wanting the Lord’s Prayer to remain in Parliamentary program and I’ve above outlined two reasons above. At the same time, I note how this Parliament, earlier in the year, made it illegal for Christians to pray with and converse with another person about sexuality and gender. I am neither surprised by the move to remove the Lord’s Prayer, and frankly how hypocritical would it be if it continued. I am not keen to see our political representatives heaping more coals on their heads by speaking words that condemn them before an authority that exists above their own station.

Removing the Lord’s Prayer is another indication of a culture turning its back on the very beliefs upon which the very best of society is built. However its continuation is not a sign of living faith but of hypocrisy and dead religion. While there is great sadness in seeing my State of Victoria walk away from the God who exists, lives, and saves, the answer is not found in Parliament but in the local church. Christians should take care in how we argue, for we are mistaken if we conflate civil society with the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God and the cause of Jesus Christ isn’t extended through such cultural nodding toward Christianity. The Lord’s Prayer belongs to the Church. The cause of the Gospel will be advanced by Christians believing, praying, and living out what Jesus taught us to pray.

This prayer that provides comfort to millions of Christians is far more weighty and formidable than I suspect many assume. My advice to the Victorian Parliament today is to pause and read it very carefully and to ponder the theological statements Jesus is making. Ask this question, do I believe this? Can I ask speak these words with a clear conscience? Perhaps, just perhaps, ask yourselves, does this God of the Lord’s Prayer really exist and can I known him and receive the blessings that are promised to those who know God as Father?


Update: The motion failed to gain sufficient support. For the time being the Lord’s Prayer will continue to be recited. However the Government’s Attorney General has indicated that Labor will proceed to remove it following the next State election (assuming they win)

The Lord’s Prayer is again the focus of the Victorian Parliament

The Lord’s Prayer is once again the subject of dispute in the Victorian Parliament. It is the practice of both Federal and State Governments in Australia to open the parliamentary sitting with the speaker reading out loud the ‘Lord’s Prayer’.

Today in Victoria, Legislative Council Member, Fiona Patten of the “Reason Party” (formerly called the Australia Sex Party), is introducing a motion to have the Lord’s Prayer banned and in its place introduce a moment’s silence at the start of each sitting. Her reasoning is that many Victorians are not Christians and it’s discriminatory toward other religions and to Victorians with no religious affiliation. 

As a Christian leader living in Victoria, I’m not persuaded by Patten’s argument, but neither am I calling for the Parliament to hold onto this tradition. Rather, my desire is that our Parliamentarians would come to terms with the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, and from there, make a decision.

In case anyone is wondering where this prayer originates, it is with Jesus Christ. Jesus introduced this prayer to his disciples early in his ministry and it was written down as part of Scripture and has remained precious to Christians ever since (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4). The prayer, while it can be read verbatim, is probably meant to serve as a model for teaching us ‘how to pray’. Nonetheless this renowned prayer is read verbatim in our Parliaments.

The positive in keeping the Lord’s Prayer in Parliament

Reading the Lord’s Prayer in the Parliament serves to perform two important functions in our society. First, this is an audible reminder to Victorians of the fact that Australia has been profoundly and positively shaped by Christianity. The prayer offers both an historical and cultural connection to the worldview that has provided vital and foundational influence on Australian life. The Lord’s Prayer serves as one of the few remaining signals in Parliament to our nation’s Christian past. This is a past that many wish to have erased although doing so will also remove the very foundations upon which our society depends for stability, tolerance, and viability. 

Second, the Lord’s Prayer is a salient reminder of our humanity and our dependence on God who is Sovereign and good. We ultimately need a God of Biblical proportions to give us wisdom and understanding as we lead, serve and live. 

The danger of praying the Lord’s Prayer

While there is argument for keeping the Lord’s Prayer in the Victorian Parliament, there are more significant reasons for treading cautiously with this prayer. The words Jesus taught are not vague spiritual notions; all nice and innocuous. The Lord’s Prayer is a dangerous prayer to pray. It should probably come with a warning sign or some kind of disclosure before reading. Let me explain, 

1. The Lord’s prayer is for believers 

The prayer begins with Jesus addressing,

“‘Our Father in heaven”

Jesus invites us to call God, Father. This is an incredibly wonderful idea and it is unique to Christianity. To know God as Father suggests that he is not an impersonal being, but he is relational and personal. What a remarkable concept Jesus is teaching!

However God is not everyone’s Father, and it’s imprudent to call him such. It is inappropriate for any child to call me dad; only my children can do that. Similarly, only God’s children can truly address him as Father. The Bible shows us that we only have the privilege of knowing God as Father through faith in his Son. This is one of the great possibilities that’s opened in Christianity, we can come to know God as Father.

‘In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 1:4-5). The Bible teaches us that we can know God as Father, but it is through Jesus. By trusting in his death and resurrection, we are no longer separated from God, but are included into his people and brought into a personal relationship with God.

It is a bold or very foolish politician who addresses God as Father without first placing their faith in his Son. 

2. The Lord’s prayer acknowledges God’s utter holiness and otherness

“hallowed be your name”

This line is asking God for glory and greatness to be attributed to his name.

3. The Lord’s prayer asks for God to end this fallen world and to judge wrongdoing. 

“your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Lord’s prayer asks for God’s Kingdom to come and be manifest. This petition is asking for both judgment and salvation. We’re imploring God to bring an end to all sin, evil and death, and to judge the guilty. It is calling for God to rid the world of every evil and injustice, including our own. It is also an appeal for God to unveil his rule publicly and universally, that we might live under and enjoy eternity with him in the new creation. 

Should we encourage people to ask God for this, especially if they themselves don’t believe in Jesus Christ? It’s like playing Russian roulette, except Jesus is persuaded that the Bible’s teaching on judgment is no idle threat, it’s about God righting all that is wrong.

4.  The Lord’s Prayer says we need God each day and especially his forgiveness

“Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

He is the God who provides our daily provisions and who is able to do the harder work, of forgiving us our sins.

This petition requires us to recognise our sinfulness, as defined by God’s righteousness and not by our current social norms. At the time, this is breathtaking. In our culture where forgiveness is hard to find and where politics is filled with shaming and guilting others, Jesus’ prayer is humbling and provides a stunning possibility; Divine forgiveness. 

5. The Lord’s Prayer asks for a way out from temptation.

“And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.’”

Are we wanting to embrace and live according to God’s design for life or something else? Given the reputation of our Parliament and many of the decisions made in recent years, one might conclude that our political representatives are consciously jumping into temptation rather than seeking to avoid it. 

To pray or not to pray?

Let’s be honest, prayer can act like a placebo, serving to trick my  consciousness into believing everything will work out. Prayers even in many churches have become about tradition rather than the intended purpose which is about knowing and delighting in God. One cannot read this prayer with understanding and come to those errant conclusions.

Fiona Patten’s reasons for banning the Lord’s Prayer may be about further undermining the important role Christianity plays in our society, but there are bigger and better reasons for avoiding this prayer.  Should you speak of God as your father if he is not? Do you understand that calling for the coming Kingdom include Divine judgment? Do you mean it when you ask God to forgive you? 

This prayer that provides comfort to millions of Christians is also far more weighty and formidable than I suspect many assume. My advice to the Victorian Parliament is to pause and read it very carefully and to ponder the theological statements Jesus is making and to ask, do I believe this? Can I ask speak these words with a clear conscience? Perhaps, just perhaps, ask yourselves, does this God of the Lord’s Prayer really exist and can I known him and receive the blessings that are promised to those who know God as Father?

Address at the Victorian Parliament

Below is a transcript of a short address that I gave this afternoon at the Victorian Parliament, at a Parliamentary Update meeting for Faith Communities.

—————————————–

Thank you to those who have organised this afternoon’s Parliamentary Update. Your time is appreciated.

Of the many issues which deserve attention I wish to raise 3 at this time: 1. religious freedom, 2. safe schools, and 3. freedom for unborn children to live.

In many ways Victoria is a great place to live, it is not however a safe State for unborn children. We talk about the right to choose,  but we rarely talk about our responsibility toward society’s most vulnerable. A 16 week old baby in the womb can be moved by the music of Mozart and Bach, and yet we permit that child’s death.

And Victoria is not always a safe State for school children who are now compelled to participate in and to affirm theories about sexuality that contradict many sound beliefs. While Respectful Relationships and Safe Schools may contain some useful tools, they are deeply flawed and ideologically driven. Safe Schools has been exposed by two independent inquiries. To quote Professor Patrick Parkinson, Safe Schools is “dubious’, ‘misleading’, and ‘containing exaggerated claims’.”

This will damage many vulnerable children who are wrestling with their sexuality. In addition, many Victorian families now believe that they are no longer welcome in public schools. Alternative arrangements come at a tremendous cost to families, and sometimes parents don’t have the option of enrolling their children into a Christian or private school.

Finally, I am concerned by the fact that this Parliament has introduced ill conceived legislations that would reduce religious freedoms in Victoria and compromise freedom of conscience. For example, the currently proposed Charities Amendment Bill, and the Inherent Requirement Test legislation from 2016. The latter example specifically targeted religious groups, and would have given the Government power to intervene in churches and religious organisations during the process of hiring employees. Is it wise or fair to force religious organisations to employ persons who do not share their values and beliefs?

Such overreach threatens our liberal democracy, for freedom of association and freedom of religion are foundational. We are meant to be a pluralist society and yet such legislative agendas work against it.

I reminded of when the Apostle Paul visited the city of Corinth; he challenged the status quo but not by silencing them but by discussion and reasoning.

When a legislative agenda aims reduce religious freedoms all Victorians should be concerned, not because pluralism is god, and not because we are moral and spiritual relativists, but because a healthy society needs this. We learn and mature through debate and discussion.

As we look to this year’s election, these are I believe 3 critical issues for our State.

img_9452

Victoria about to legalise euthanasia

It has been another sad day in Victoria. Victoria is set to become the first State in Australia to legalise euthanasia. We used to say how we were better than NSW in everything, but in recent times we have demonstrably shown ourselves to be less safe, less caring, and less reasonable.

In contrast to the NSW Parliament who last week knocked down a euthanasia bill in its early stages, this afternoon the Victorian Legislative Council vote 22-18 in favour of the euthanasia bill. There were several amendments, but none take away the basic design of the legislation. The bill will soon return to the Lower House for final ratification, and becoming law. However, euthanasia won’t be permitted until June 2019, which ironically gives Australians from other States sufficient to move to Victoria and begin making plans (one has to be a resident in for Victoria for 12 months in order to have access to this law).

img_9452

If there is one comment from today that sums up this legislation, it comes from Upper House Labor member, Jaclyn Symes. Liberal member, Craig Ondarchie, had asked for an amendment, which would have made it lawful for Doctors to name the cause of death on the death certificate, namely, assisted suicide by the administration of xyz drug. The amendment was an important one,  because under the proposed law,  doctors won’t cite the cause of death, instead they would record the illness with which the patient was suffering.  The amendment failed to find sufficient support. Anyway, Ms Symes said in response to the amendment (to paraphrase),

“Mr Ondarchie, your amendment is cruel and lacks empathy.”

Think about it –  if writing down the true cause of death is cruel and lacks empathy and can’t be recorded, what does that tell us about euthanasia?

A short time ago our Premier, Daniel Andrews, announced to the media, “This is Victoria at its best.”

No, the State sanctioning the killing of human life is not our best, it is our worst.  We should commend our Governments when they do good and serve our communities well, but this is not one of those days. Hundreds of medical professionals urged the Parliament not to accept this legislation, but instead to give proper funding to palliative care. Others encouraged the Parliament to understand the moral line they would cross, should they legalise euthanasia. There were indeed many from within Parliament, and across party lines, who spoke against this bill, but to no avail.

Tonight, it seems as though Victoria is taking glory in our shame. Our Premier and others are  taking pride in a law that is designed to kill people, and that should frighten Victorians and sadden us.

I’m reminded of Proverbs which says,

“Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.
Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed
than to share plunder with the proud.” (Proverbs 16:17-19)

It is better to stand for what is right and good, and to lose, than to stand and share in the glory of dreadful and immoral lawmaking.  This does mean though, Churches must ready themselves to love and support families who have loved ones who’ve made the decision to take their own life, and we must be ready to offer gentle and wise counsel to people who are considering the path of taking their own life.

Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others, must ready themselves for how they will address patients who come to them and asking drugs in which to take their life.

Over the course of the debate several members of Parliament and staffers have indicated to me that we should expect the parameters of the euthanasia law to be broadened, in the next 5-10 years. In other words, don’t think that this issue is a done deal.

As the debate continued today in Spring Street, I was preparing a sermon for this Sunday at Mentone Baptist, our passage is Matthew 9:18-34. In this portion of Scripture we find Christ who has come to restore all that is wrong and broken and hurting and sinful. People in the darkest times, who had lost all hope and for whom others could no longer assist, in Jesus they found God who loves and who one day will restore all things.

In that passage there are two blind men who come to Jesus, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” That is a great response for Christians today. As our State further dehumanises its citizens, and demonises those who oppose their agenda, let us cry out to God for his mercy, not only for ourselves but also for those who voted ‘yes’ today, and for those in our community who are struggling with the realisation that death is not far away.

As the song of Isaiah promised,

“Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)

 

 

What is happening to my beloved State of Victoria?

What is happening to my beloved State of Victoria?

In so many ways she is the envy of the world, with our tremendous prosperity, sport, food, and lifestyle. And yet an out of control ideology is driving Victoria to a place that we ought not visit. Vehicle number plates are soon to be changed from, “stay alive” and “the place to be”, to “the place to die”.

The centrepiece of the economy is a casino.

Our favourite public holiday is all about gambling and drinking.

Best education practice has been overturned by one of the most dangerous social engineering projects we’ve ever seen in this country.

Opt-in Religious Instruction classes are almost impossible to hold, while parents are refused permission to opt-out their children from non-scientific and ideologically heavy sex programs.

No, I’m not entering the nutty world of wowserism, but I’m searching for reasonableness and compassion where both are fast exiting north along the Hume Highway.

vicV65108.jpg

The Victorian Parliament is about to decide whether to legalise euthanasia. The Bill is being debated this week, and it will almost certainly pass in both houses.

Daniel Andrews has called this legislation, “conservative assisted dying”, as though adding an obtuse adjective makes killing people somehow ok. Let us be clear, there is nothing conservative about handing out poison to human beings so that they can commit suicide. The fact that this is even being considered, demonstrates how warped we’ve become in our rationalisation. Despite some of the dishonest rhetoric accompanying  arguments for euthanasia, I have been informed by sources inside Spring Street that the intention is to soften and broaden the parameters for euthanasia down the track.

Medical experts have called for the Parliament to reject this legislation.

Over 100 palliative care specialists have pleaded that Victorians Parliamentary members stop this legislation from becoming law.

Over 100 oncologists informed the Government that assisted suicide is dangerous and should not be permitted.

“Physician assisted death is not, by definition, medical treatment. It is not palliative care.  We as doctors and medical specialists do not want   to intentionally end the lives of our patients, or provide them with the direct means to do so. Assisted suicide is in conflict with the basic ethical principles and integrity of medical practice and undermines trust in the medical profession. We strive to eliminate suffering but not the sufferers themselves.

Where cure of cancer is not possible, we seek optimal palliative care services to support and care for patients and their families at the end of life. Without easy access to quality palliative care, some may request physician assisted dying as they feel they have no other choice. This is especially so for people who live in rural, regional and remote areas and for people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities who have less access to palliative care services.

We are very disappointed that discussion of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill has dominated the agenda to improve end of life care in Victoria. We are dismayed that the multiple recommendations made by the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into End of Life Choices (June 2016) to strengthen palliative care have not been actioned. Until this is addressed, discussing physician assisted dying is premature.”

Pharmacists have warned that they will be placed in an intolerable position, whereby they will be forced to subscribe poison to Victorians, with the aim of killing them.

Palliative care experts have called on the Government to provide a more compassionate and human alternative to euthanasia, namely, providing proper funding for palliative care.

Victoria isn’t losing its soul, we are actively killing the soul in order to win the prize of becoming the most socially progressive society in the nation. Sure, we’re winning the praise of many inner-surbanites, favourable editorials in The Age, and the adulations of those who want to be like Peter Singer, but is sacrificing our humanity worth it? When the warnings of hundreds of medical professionals are ignored, and when common sense becomes a liability in framing law, we know that we’ve jumped into the murky depths of the Yarra river.

Do Victorians truly want the State to justify killing its own citizens? What is more human, to kill the sick or to ensure they receive proper palliative care?

I am reminded of the words of Jesus, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mark 8:36-37)

Victorian Greens banning the conscience

The Victorian Parliament is expected to commence debate on an assisted-suicide Bill next week, although the conversation has been taking place for many months already.

Two of the main issues that I have heard expressed concern the ethics of killing human beings, and the question of safeguards. In regard to the latter issue, Peter Singer (who is one the most notable global pro-euthanasia voices) recently admitted in a Melbourne meeting,

“Euthanasia without patient consent does happen in Europe. Don’t worry it happens here too.”

 

img_9452

This week, however, another important area of debate has been brought to the fore by the Victorian Greens.

St Vincent’s Health Australia has made it clear that should euthanasia be legalised in Victoria, they will not be offering this ‘procedure’, given that killing human life contradicts their values. In response, Victorian Greens have asked the Government to review public funding of St Vincent’s if clinicians are banned from administering assisted suicide. How extraordinary that a political party would remove funding from a major health care provider on account that they refuse to assist patient suicide. Imagine living in a State where hospitals were forced to participate in killing patients; welcome to Victoria. In all probability, it is unlikely that the Parliament would support such measures, but this is yet another example of how far our society has moved in the dehumanisation project.

A Greens spokesperson then had the audacity to attack St Vincent’s hospital, accusing them of lacking compassion for the terminally ill and “condemning people to pain.” One can imagine what the doctors and nurses at the hospital think of such a repugnant comment.

I am a strong supporter of the Greens policy to ban Greyhound racing because of the appalling statistics of these dogs being euthanised. We own a greyhound rescue dog, and he’s a much loved member of our family. How ironic that the same political party not only support proposed legislation to encourage assisted suicide of human beings, they would also threaten health providers who find such action unconscionable.

Letters for Members of the Victorian Parliament: RE ‘inherent requirement’ test

If you are interested in writing to your local State MP to express concerns about the amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act, here are some salient points that you might include when drafting a letter of your own

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to express concerns over the proposed ‘inherent requirement’ test, that is being re-introduced by the Andrews Government.

Diversity, freedom of association, and freedom of religion, are key characteristics of our liberal democracy that are esteemed by Australians. Throughout our history Governments have valued the contributions of religious organisations, indeed society would be the lesser without them, and yet Governments have also understood a demarcation between the State and religious institutions.

The proposed Equal Opportunity Amendment (Religious Exceptions) Bill 2016 will cross that line, with the Victorian Government taking a role in supervising whom religious organisations may employ.

First of all, why is this legislation targeting religious groups?

The amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act will not impact any social or political groups, only religious ones.

As it stands, political parties, sporting clubs, and other interest groups have freedom to appoint persons who subscribe to the views and goals of those organisations. This is only common sense. For example, it would be unfair to force the Greens to employ a climate-change skeptic, or to expect the local Football Club to appoint a groundsman who was intent on converting the oval into a swimming pool.

It is therefore reasonable to ask, what is the motivation behind the Government focusing on religious organisations, and not others?

Indeed, this amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act is but the latest of a growing list of anti-religious measures that have been introduced by the Government over the last 2 years. I appreciate that some policy changes are being presented as fighting equality for LBGTI people, and some of this is laudable. However other policies are completely unrelated to sexuality issues, and are simply attacks on religious freedoms: removing SRI lessons from schools is one such example. And the legislation itself says its scope is not limited to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but extends to ‘differing religious beliefs’. In other words, it is no longer permissible for a church or school to reject an applicant on the basis of them adhering to a different religion. Such an idea would be laughable, except it may soon become law.

Secondly, the inherent requirement test assumes that the Government has the right to intrude on religious organisations, and influence whom they employ.

This test is a clear abrogation of one of Australia’s most basic ideals, that the State will not interfere with the beliefs and practices of religious organisations.

Mr Andrews has stated, “Religious bodies or schools will be required to demonstrate a necessary connection between their religious beliefs and the requirements of a specific role.”

This move counters the very notion of a pluralist society, and is setting up the situation whereby  a Government impose impose its narrow secularist agenda onto groups who do not share their ethical and religious viewpoint.

Thirdly, the test assumes that the Government, and any tribunal set up by the Government, has the expertise and knowledge to interpret the theological framework underpinning these organisations.

Again, Mr Andrews has said,

“The defence will be limited to circumstances where religious beliefs are an inherent requirement of a job, and an employee or job applicant does not meet the requirement because of a specific personal attribute.”

But who is to say when and where religious beliefs are an inherent requirement of a job?

The legislation assumes that some jobs in a church,  or mosque, or religious school can be considered ‘religious’ and others not. This may be the case in some instances, but is the Government really in a position to decide what is inherent and what is not?

It is important to understand that this assumption is not ethically or  theologically neutral; it requires a body, set up by the Government, to interpret and impose their understanding of Islam, Judaism, or Christianity onto these various organisations. For example, in Christian thinking, the roles of gardener, administrator, and teacher are not separated into religious and non-religious work, for all are expressions of service to God. 

As it happens, many of these organisations do employ persons who don’t subscribe to the particular religious principles of the institution; that is their freedom to do so. Surely though, school boards, charities, and churches are in the best position to understand the values and needs of their organisation?

In the end, it comes down to these questions:

Is it the role of Government to interfere with the beliefs and practices of religious organisations?

Is it wise or fair to force religious organisations to employ persons who do not share their values and beliefs?

I believe this legislation is unnecessary, and will set a dangerous precedent for our future as Victorians.

I am asking that you consider voting against this legislation. I am very happy to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you for taking the time to hear my concerns

Yours Kindly,

Murray Campbell

Petition to Uphold Freedom of Association and Freedom of Belief in Victoria

I’m not usually one for signing petitions, but if you are concerned for religious freedoms in Victoria, please consider signing this petition

 

“The petition of citizens of the State of Victoria and Australia draws to the attention of the Victorian Parliament our objection to the moves by the Victorian Government under the Equal Opportunity Amendment (Religious Exceptions) Bill 2016 to remove or restrict the freedom of faith-based schools and other organisations to employ staff who uphold the values of the organisation and to force faith-based organisations to hire staff who are fundamentally opposed to what the organisation stands for, thereby:-

(i) denying those organisations the freedom to operate in accordance with their beliefs and principles;

(ii) denying parents the ability to choose to send their children to schools that are able to give them the values based education their parents are looking for; and

(iii) undermining Victoria’s diverse, pluralist, multicultural society, which supports the right of people of many different faiths to establish institutions in accordance with their faith.”

Click on the link to sign the petition:

https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/petition-to-uphold-freedom-of-association-and-freedom-of-belief-in-victoria.html