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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.”

 

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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

 

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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