Editor’s note: Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison MP gave the following address in the House of Representatives during the same-sex marriage debate. Whilst we know that same-sex marriage was subsequently legalised I believe it is important to know how at least one of our national leaders fought to protect our religious freedom.
“I was amongst the 39 percent that voted for the traditional view of marriage to be maintained. As a nation we must now move forward in grace and love, as my Christian faith teaches us. I will respect the democratic outcome of this Australian Marriage survey, both nationally and in my own community, by not standing in the way of this Bill. However, with the closure of one debate, a new one commences. This new debate is not about opposing same sex marriage, it is about sensibly protecting religious freedoms. There are almost five million Australians that voted no in this survey who are now coming to terms with the fact that on this issue, they are a minority. That did not used to be the case in the Australia they have lived all or most of their lives in. They have concerns that their broader views and their broader beliefs are also in the minority and therefore under threat. And they are seeking assurances at this time.
Assurances, rightly or wrongly, that the things that they hold dear are not under threat also because of this change. On the night of the first referendum to establish our federation in June 1898, Alfred Deakin prayed ‘thy blessing has rested on us here yesterday and we pray that it may be the means of creating and fostering throughout Australia a Christlike citizenship’. In an earlier speech campaigning in Bendigo for the Federation he quoted a local poet defining the true Australian goal of Federation as for ‘us to arise, united, penitent, and be one people, mighty, serving God’.
Our Constitution went on to proclaim … WHEREAS the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth… with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal. Then in S116 our Constitution deliberately afforded a protection ‘that the Commonwealth shall not make any law… for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion.’ This is the religious inheritance of our Federation, our Constitution, from more than a century ago. If we ever act in dissonance with these founding principles, it will be to our peril. This is not to say that Australia is a nation with an established state religion. It is not. We are thankfully free of such a restriction on our liberty.
Such freedom though should not be used as a weapon against the importance of faith, belief and religion in our society, or as a justification to drive faith and religion from our public square. At the same time, protection of religious freedoms cannot be used as a cloak for religious extremism, that undermines our freedoms. We may be a secular state, but we are not a Godless people to whom faith, belief and religion are not important. Quite the contrary. It is deeply central to the lives of millions of Australians. In my own church, like many others, we refer to Australia as the great south land of the Holy Spirit. Whether you raise your hands, bow to your knees, face the holy city, light incense, a candle or the menorah, faith matters in this country, and we cannot allow its grace and peace to be diminished, muffled or driven from the public square.
Separation of church and state, does not mean the inoculation of the influence of faith on the state. The State shouldn’t run the church and the church shouldn’t run the State. In fact, separation of church and state was set up to protect the church from the State, not the other way around. To protect religious freedoms. As I argued in my maiden speech in this place, secularism, secular humanism, is no more our established state religion than any other. It is one of the many free views held by Australians. It holds no special place of authority in our Commonwealth. For millions of Australians, faith is the unshakable cornerstone of their lives. It informs their identity and provides a genuine sense of wellbeing. It is the reason why people can look beyond their own circumstances and see a greater purpose. For countless Australians, faith is life.
In my maiden speech to parliament almost ten years ago, I spoke of the two key influences on my life, my family and my faith. And how my faith in Jesus Christ was inherently personal, not political or preachy. As Christians we do not lay claim to perfection or moral precedence. In fact it is the opposite. Conscious of the frailties and vanities of our own human condition, Christians should be more conscious of the same amongst those around us. This is why faith encourages social responsibility, the bedrock of faith in action. The fragrance of faith has washed over society for centuries and helped to shape and mould it for the better. Our own nation was founded, built and undeniably shaped by Christian values, morals and traditions that helped to unite a fledgling country. A nation blessed and formed on Christian conviction.
These issues of faith are not only gifted to us by our Federation fathers, but the many generations of Australians who have come to us since, including those from non-Christian faiths and experience. But there was one thing that could never be stripped away, through a millennia of struggle. One thing that sustained these stoic (Maronite) communities. It wasn’t the governments that came and went with the wind, it wasn’t the leaders that so promised peace. It was their faith. A faith that routinely stared adversity in the face and prevailed. A faith that held families together. When everything else was a struggle, their faith stood strong. A faith that the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese Maronite Australians brought with them to Australia from as early as the 1860s.
But so too did the many Greek Orthodox migrants, Coptic Christians from Egypt, still being persecuted in their home country today, Syrian Christians from both Orthodox and Catholic faiths and Armenians. And for the many Chinese, Korean and Filipino Australians, of Catholic, Baptist, Anglican, Presbyterian and Pentecostal faiths. Some brought their faith with them, others found it here in Australia. When most of these migrants came to Australia it was not the Government they first turned to, to assist them to adjust to their new life in Australia. It was their local church or other religious community. If you want to understand the strong opposition to changing our marriage act in western Sydney and elsewhere you must understand the central nature of faith and community to the lives of these and so many other Australians.
Nine out of the top ten electorates that voted No are represented by Labor members, and are comprised of the vibrant faith communities that I have just spoken of. I would urge them all of these Labor members to be freed up, released from any constraint, that would enable them to stand with their constituents now in supporting amendments that deliver the protections of religious freedoms that are currently absent from this Bill. To pretend this Bill is whole and satisfies their concerns is to confirm a lack of understanding and empathy for those who hold them. These Australians are looking for acknowledgement and understanding from this Parliament and their representatives. They are seeking assurance that changes being made to our marriage laws will not undermine the stability, and freedom of their faith and religious expression, what they teach their children, what their children are taught, the values they share and foster within their families, community, within and without their Church walls. This a reasonable request that this Parliament should support.
I commend the PM for initiating the Ruddock Review in protecting religious freedoms. Few people understand these communities and the issues and risks as well as the former Attorney. But that process is not, nor was it designed to be a substitute for sensible action now in this Bill. To fail to make improvements to this Bill now would demonstrate a failure to appreciate not only the underpinnings of our own liberal democracy and Federation, but the nature of modern multicultural Australia. I commend my colleagues both in the Senate and this house for standing firm on their convictions and beliefs; both representing their faith and those in their communities that share their values. I will be joining many of my colleagues in supporting amendments to be moved by the Members for Deakin, Mitchell, Canning and Mallee.
I will be joining them in moving amendments to ensure that no organization can have their public funding or charitable status threatened as a result of holding views that are consistent with the traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman. The test of faith is the fruit that it produces. That is what Jesus taught in his parable of the fig tree. The fruit of faith based organizations has been extraordinary – Mission Australia, Wesley Mission, Caritas, Anglicare, Baptist Care, our religious schools, the many Christian organisations involved in providing pastoral support in our schools, their funding through grants and other programmes and support through our tax system must continue to be about what they achieve, not what they consider to be the definition of marriage. We need to ensure these protections are put in place. It is now time to pass a truly inclusive Bill that recognizes the views of 100% of Australians, not just the 61%, and I urge the House to not miss this opportunity.”
HOW TO LIVE FAITHFULLY WHEN FREEDOM HAS BEEN TAKEN AWAY
What can we do? This is a question I’ve been asked several times since we lost the plebiscite battle for the definition of marriage. Last week’s rejection of freedom of speech by the Senate has sent shock waves through churches, mosques and Christian and Muslim schools. Just as it did in the Senate, Labor forced its parliamentarians to vote against all freedom amendments. With the Greens and the votes of pro-rainbow politics Liberals, it is highly unlikely any meaningful protections for freedom of speech and conscience will ever make it through the Parliament. It is lights out. Christians and Muslims now realise that to speak and teach that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman is to risk being fined under state-based anti-discrimination laws.
Pleas to provide a Commonwealth override of these laws and an anti-detriment shield so freedom of speech about marriage in Australia can continue were ruthlessly rejected by Labor, the Greens and a sizeable cohort of Liberal Senators. The acting leader of the National Party, Nigel Scullion (filling in for Barnaby Joyce) joined them. That conservative politicians have now joined the Left in suppressing freedom of speech is a tectonic shift in Australian politics. I can’t understate how significant this is. The unthinkable is happening but much of the church is still asleep. It was not long ago that many Labor and all conservative parliamentarians would back free speech and freedom of religion to the hilt. Our nation is in uncharted waters.
The gay lobby likes to call anti-discrimination laws anti “hate speech” laws. That is what they think of any speech that does not affirm and celebrate the new definition of marriage. They now have a powerful legal weapon to silence Christian teaching about marriage. ACL’s new Human Rights Law Alliance, a legal body set up to defend Christians in court, will be in high demand in future years. The reality of the intolerance of the rainbow political movement is starting to sink in as politicians use brutal legislative force to do the bidding of the rainbow political movement and quash the possibility of dissent. All this is in spite of the Yes campaign’s assertions that our concerns about freedoms were “red herrings” and “furphies”. It is clear that the Yes campaign was disingenuous in telling Australians that freedoms would not change.
It is now too late for freedom. The Ruddock review, announced by the Prime Minister as a consolation to the Parliament voting down freedom last week, will not result in the necessary legislative protections for freedom of speech and conscience. Australian politicians lack the political will to preserve the most basic of human rights. From this week, freedoms that Australians have taken for granted will be gone. This is chilling. Pastors and imams, teachers and wedding service providers who wish to remain faithful will be on tenterhooks. I am already getting calls from worried people in the Christian school movement and wedding service provider industries. I’ve even spoken to the chairman of a large Islamic school whose school community parents are worried.
Some brave Christians will choose to break the law and keep speaking and teaching boldly about marriage without compromise. I predict that most will choose silence and acquiescence. In some ways, I don’t blame them. The cost of speaking the truth is high and will be increasingly so. Sadly, this was avoidable. ACL has been urging the church to speak for 17 years. Asking what we can do now is the wrong question after decades of silence when one’s opponents have taken up the tools of democracy to prosecute their cause. Those same tools of democracy, speaking in the public square, supporting advocacy groups like ACL, joining political parties and voting in pre-selections to make sure people with the right values got into Parliament, were and still are available to us if only we would use them.
I am grateful to everyone who rallied to the Coalition for Marriage, we were able to give marriage and freedom a strong defence. But 30 years of silence could not be undone in three months. I do believe though, that in the long term, our efforts will not be in vain. I sincerely hope that the tens of thousands of you who donated, prayed and volunteered feel the same. This is a wake-up call. It is not the end. It is the beginning of a freshly galvanised movement to keep speaking up for the truth. But the question Christians need to be asking now is how do we remain faithful, even if it means being fined for our beliefs about marriage. If we think last week’s decision by Labor, the Greens and a cohort of Liberals to take away freedom of speech and conscience on marriage is where it will stop, we are naive. This is a new era of pressure.
The great Czech playwright, resistance leader and political prisoner Vaclav Havel’s 1978 essay “The Power of the Powerless” electrified Eastern European resistance movements. Havel said that if we “live within the lie” we collaborate with the system, in his case the atheistic communist system, and we compromise our full humanity. The answer to the question “what do we do now?” is “refuse to live within the lie”. This will be costly. But what choice do we have? Despite the loss, it was a joy to fight for marriage as part of the Coalition for Marriage and to see a movement of determined people rise up. This is not the end, but the beginning of a new phase. Let’s together resolve to keep shining the light of the Christ child’s truth in 2018 and beyond. God bless you.
Source: by Lyle Shelton Managing Director Australian Christian Lobby
The pushback to same-sex marriage has begun with No-voting MPs seeking to influence a review of religious freedoms led by former Liberal attorney-general Philip Ruddock. Conservatives said the substance of unsuccessful amendments to protect religious freedoms, defeated during the debate on the gay marriage bill, needed to be revisited by the Ruddock review or risk being seen as an affront to No voters. South Australian Liberal senator David Fawcett, who helped devise five of the unsuccessful amendments to the bill, has signalled his interest in resurrecting his changes through the expert panel review. “My involvement in the Senate committee, which I chaired, led me to become one of the leading advocates for amendments for protections in the actual same-sex marriage bill. Senator Fawcett said. “I’ll be looking to work with Mr Ruddock and the government to ensure protections are put in place.”
Labor MP Chris Hayes, who used his speech in the House of Representatives to argue for religious freedoms to be examined in the Ruddock review, said there was a need to consider enshrining Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Australian law to better uphold religious liberty. “I think there’s some utility in investigating the application or bringing into Australian domestic law the tenants of Article 18 of that convention,” he said. “I would think that it would be one of the areas that the expert panel might care to look at.” Other Coalition MPs who supported religious freedom amendments voiced concern they had not been consulted over the decision to announce the expert panel, which includes Australian Human Rights Commission president Rosalind Croucher, retired judge Annabelle Bennett and Jesuit priest Frank Brennan.
“The inquiry panel was selected without consultation and largely reflects the biases and relationships of the Yes voting cabinet members,” one Coalition MP said. “I hold little hope after a close look at the voting patterns of both the Senate and the Reps with respect to the amendments being revisited.” A spokesman for the postal survey No campaign said supporters of traditional marriage remained “hopeful but extremely concerned” about whether religious freedom protections would be secured through the Ruddock review, which is due to report at the end of March. “Not only has there been a lack of consultation, there is no clear understanding that this process will lead to an actual legislative outcome that provides protections for Australians of faith,” the spokesman said.
The spokesman continued “The absence of a prominent No voice on the inquiry is of concern, and does not send a positive message to the millions and millions of No voters.” Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said he supported the Ruddock review, and schools should have the ability to “teach in accordance” with their religious world view. “Once we’re out of the shadow of the marriage debate, the sorts of protections we talked about in the last parliamentary sitting week, I think it is proper for those to be considered,” he said.