Same-sex marriage: religious liberty sacrificed to political ambition

The Australian December 2, 2017



It is one of the lessons of history that the actions of small-minded men often will bring about great calamities. Sometimes the calamities are the result of the gradual encroachment of control, of the loss of liberty, the loss of the ability to think things through, the triumph of the thought police.

The furore over religious liberty is about more than the loss of a few seats or government. The political landscape is verging on chaos because of the ambition of Malcolm Turnbull and his lefty acolytes in the Liberal Party.

In their desire to prop up a failed government and a hubristic Prime Minister who wants to make his mark on history they have proved, by opposing the amendments for religious liberty in relation to the introduction of same-sex marriage, that they are small political creatures who know no history. They leave conservative voters nowhere to go.

Remember the four freedoms on which US president Franklin Roosevelt based his policy of aid to Britain in the war against the Nazis? They were freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Later those freedoms made up the core of the UN’s 1948 Declaration of Human Rights.

Freedom of religion is not a pressing consideration in Australia today because of six self-styled libertarians who have decided to make common ground with the anti-religious Labor and Greens, who care not one jot if a few bishops get hauled before our extrajudicial kangaroo courts, the human rights boards or commissions.

The Prime Minister condescendingly attempted to reassure voters that he was primarily a supporter of freedom of religion. He has been exposed, as John Howard put it, “kicking the can of religious freedom down the road” into the nebulous future.

The five million people who voted against introducing same-sex marriage are not fooled by this. They voted No on principle. They knew this vote was not really about marriage, or — despite Attorney-General George Brandis’s emotional speech — about the dignity of individuals, which is not dependent on the ability to marry.

It was about changing our view of sex, sexual relationships and the natural family structure. No religion, Christian or otherwise, will ever accept that change as part of its teaching on sexual morality. Hence the vote against same-sex marriage in the electorates in western Sydney.

These seats have a high number of people who have a religious affiliation, some of the highest in Australia. But contrary to the propaganda designed to scare and split voters by shamefully raising the spectre of sharia, it is not just a Muslim vote. Only one seat, Blaxland, has a preponderance of Muslims at 29.2 per cent, but they are followed by Catholics at 19.2 per cent. “No religion” makes up just 13.4 per cent. In Fowler, the most multicultural area in NSW, the No vote was 63.7 per cent and Catholics comprise 26.7 per cent, Buddhists 19.8 per cent and Muslims 6.4 per cent.

This demographic has been ignored by everyone, especially the media, which did not bother to cover a rally for the No side at Fairfield showground that attracted 10,000. Media organisations got a big shock after the vote and tried to explain it as the expression of a minority of unassimilated immigrants. It appears the Labor Party and left-leaning Liberals are doing the same.

But these people know what freedom is and what it is not. Many have fled countries where their freedom of thought and action was severely curtailed, and found in Australia under the rule of law a new peaceful coexistence, sometimes with co-religionists of their former persecutors. In these areas Orthodox Christians live near Muslim neighbours, and rather than raising the false prospect of sharia and female genital mutilation, politicians and commentators would do well to realise that a No vote there was an expression of traditional family values and relig­ious and cultural observance. They also would do well to realise it is something shared by many other Australians outside migrant communities.

Commentators who pigeonhole the conservative vote in Australia as a 40 per cent rump of No voters in the same-sex marriage survey are wrong. As Howard understood, traditional family values are important to most Australians. One reflection of this is in the high number of children attending non-government schools, especially religious schools, and that must include many Yes voters. Nearly one-third of Australian children are in the non-government sector, more than one-quarter of those in Catholic schools.

The prospect of lawfare against schools that uphold traditional teaching on marriage and sexual morality is pertinent to the debate.

What will happen when a gay couple who have enrolled their child in a Catholic or other Christian school objects to the teaching on the sacrament of marriage, which has at its centre the reproductive sexual relationship and the statement that you are born of a mother and father? Will the school be taken to the anti-discrimination tribunal, as was Catholic Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous? After all, that is what the contentious booklet Don’t Mess with Marriage was about. In Western Australia, using anti-discrimination legislation, the left already is trying to limit the exemptions for religious schools.

It is doubtful that John Stuart Mill would have been impressed by our do-it-yourself libertarians. The essential element of freedom, he said, was “liberty of conscience … liberty of thought”.

Religious liberty is not just about the freedom to observe rubrics. Religion is not about rubrics. It is about a way of thought reflected in a way of life. Any government that opens the door to a suppression of that is not about liberty but about something akin to the diktats of Big Brother.