Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Is there growing emphasis on religious faith in Australian politics?


On 22 November 2017, the Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull announced the appointment of an Expert Panel to examine whether Commonwealth, state and territories law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion.

The Panel accepted submissions, but held no public hearings and published no list of witnesses.

The Panel delivered its report on 18 May 2018 and on that same day the Prime Minster made it clear that he had no intention of making the report’s findings public in the near future.

As we wait to find out whether the religious far-right has captured the castle here is a brief look back at comment on religion in politics ......

The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 April 2004:

God is appearing in more and more places around the Federal Parliament, and among all sorts of people….

God moves in mysterious ways, and never more so than when He moves into politics. On Thursday, for example, the Liberal Party announced that its candidate for the seat of Greenway, centred around Blacktown, would be Louise Markus, a prominent member of Hillsong, Australia's largest church.

The US-style, high-energy, hand-clapping Pentecostal church, which draws its people from the Bible belt of Sydney's north-western suburbs, attracts more than 15,000 people each Sunday. Its Friday night youth meetings reportedly draw 2000, its children's meetings some 1600 and its women-only gatherings more than 1000.

The church is as entrepreneurial as it is evangelical, constantly seeking to expand its influence through CDs, books and other media. And now it might be in line to claim its second federal MP. It already has Alan Cadman, the fiercely right-wing member for Mitchell - which includes Baulkham Hills, the epicentre of Hillsong influence - as a prominent member of the flock. Greenway, which adjoins Cadman's seat, is held by Labor's Frank Mossfield, but is highly marginal, and the sitting member is retiring at the election.

You might have thought someone standing for such a marginal seat would want all the media attention he or she could get, but the Liberals' state director, Scott Morrison, refused to let the Herald talk to her. He said she would do "local media first".

Instead Morrison, himself a man of "strong religious views", launched into a pitch for the type of "faith-based programs" that Hillsong had established to address social problems.

"In the [United] States there is an increasing tendency of governments - particularly the Bush Government - to get behind what are called faith-based programs," he enthused.

"That is where governments start to lift the constraints on the Noffses and the Bill Crewses and others, to enable them to really help people, beyond just the material, and give them life advice which involves faith. Those programs, I understand, have had some great success."

Markus works for Emerge, the Hillsong offshoot whose facilities and programs range from medical centres and emergency relief services to drug and alcohol programs, and personal development and recovery programs.

The CEO there, Leigh Coleman, would not put us in contact with Markus, either. And so the views of the Hillsong employee and Liberal candidate on the desirability of passing responsibility for social welfare issues from secular government agencies to religious organisations must for now remain a mystery.

Perhaps some light will be shed when the chief pastor of Hillsong, Brian Houston, addresses Federal Parliament's Christian fellowship prayer breakfast when next it meets, in about a month.

A bigger mystery, however, is the movement of God into the NSW Young Liberals. In this case, however, God wears not the toothy smile of a Pentecostal "happy clapper" but the dour face of the arch-conservative Catholic organisation, Opus Dei.

Warrane College was established in 1971. It is a residential college affiliated to the University of NSW and owned by the not-for-profit Educational Development Association. Pastoral care for its 125 young men (women are not permitted past the ground floor) is "entrusted" to Opus Dei, a prelature of the Catholic Church.

Warrane College is also the "home" address of about one-quarter of the membership of the Randwick/Coogee branch of the Young Liberals. Of 88 members enrolled in the Young Libs branch, 21 list the college or its post-office box as their address, according to a membership list seen by the Herald….

Parliament of Australia, Papers on Parliament No. 46, December 2006:

Religion and politics has a long and often controversial history in Australia, most of it associated with Christianity. One resolution of the relationship came with the incorporation into the Constitution of s. 116. That section reads:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

In discussions of the religious component of twentieth century Australian politics most attention has been given not to constitutional issues but to the link between denominations and parties in voting and representation, Catholics with Labor and Protestants with the Coalition, as well as the denominational character of the Labor Party Split of the 1950s that produced the Democratic Labor Party. Professor Judith Brett, for instance, begins her survey of the literature as follows:
It has long been recognised that the foundation of the Australian party system had a religious dimension, with an affinity between the main Australian nonlabour parties and Protestantism and between the Labor Party and Roman Catholicism…..

The Howard government is the first federal Coalition government in which Catholics have played a major role. While this fact has been commented on from time to time, sometimes it is submerged under the exaggerated concentration on the religious affiliation and personal religious background of just one of its senior ministers, Tony Abbott. This concentration culminated in the reportage of the February 2006 debates about the so-called ‘abortion drug’ RU-486 (see below). The general trend is of greater significance, however, than the role of any one individual.

Historically Catholic representation in the Coalition parties was minimal, almost non-existent, and there was active antipathy towards Catholic MPs such as Sir John Cramer as late as the 1950s. Professor Joan Rydon notes ‘the almost negligible Catholic component of the non-Labor parties’ in her survey of the Commonwealth Parliament from 1901 to 1980. Representation of Catholics in the Fraser ministry (1975–83) was still minimal, though it did include Philip Lynch, Fraser’s deputy for a time. But it had jumped dramatically 13 years later in both the Liberal and National parties. National Party Catholics have included two Deputy Prime Ministers, Tim Fischer and Mark Vaile. Senior Liberal Party Catholics have included Abbott, Brendan Nelson, Helen Coonan, Joe Hockey and Kevin Andrews to name just some current senior ministers. Prominent Catholics earlier in the Howard era included Communications minister, Richard Alston, Resources and Energy minister, Warwick Parer, and Aboriginal Affairs minister, John Herron. By 2006, other Catholics included new minister, Senator Santo Santoro, and up and coming parliamentary secretaries such as Robb himself, Malcolm Turnbull and Christopher Pyne. One step behind were senators George Brandis and Brett Mason. Prominent in another way has been Senator Bill Heffernan, the Prime Minister’s outspoken NSW party ally and one-time parliamentary secretary. The overall change has been remarkable.

By contrast, the place of Catholics in their ‘traditional’ party, Labor, seems much diminished and less obvious, despite Kim Beazley’s family connections with the church and Kevin Rudd’s Catholic origins. Many of them appeared to be isolated in the Catholic right faction, especially the NSW Right, and the party’s culture and history did not encourage them to emphasise their religious belief, because it stirred internal party divisions and conflict. Furthermore, anti-Catholic prejudice had become endemic in the Victorian branch of the party following the Labor Party split. As a consequence there is hardly a major federal Labor figure whose Catholic identity seems important. Most of the leading humanists in the Parliament are in the Labor Party and several of them, led by Dr Carmen Lawrence, formed a cross-factional Humanist Group in September 2000 to counter what they saw as the growing influence of religion in parliamentary debates and decisions…..

The public presentation of personal religious beliefs, now widespread in public life, is of equal interest to the denominational changes that have taken place. More than any other federal government the senior members of the Howard government have been active, in word and deed, in emphasizing (or at least being open about) its religious credentials and beliefs and in emphasizing the positive contribution of Christian values to Australian society. One has only to compare the publicly Christian approach of the Howard-Anderson-Costello-Abbott team, for instance, to the privately Christian, even secular, approach of the Fraser-Anthony-Lynch team in the 1970s to see that this is true.

The reason for this change might include a combination of the so-called international clash between fundamentalist Islam and Western Christian nations together with the particular personalities that just happen to have emerged in leadership positions in the Coalition. Howard himself, it should be noted, has not been the leading figure in this development, despite the attention given to his personal Methodism-cum-Anglicanism. Perhaps decreasing sectarianism has played a part.

Nevertheless, whatever its origins, this has occurred to the extent that following the 2004 federal election it drew a response from Labor in the form of Foreign Affairs shadow minister, Kevin Rudd, who formed a party discussion group on religion, faith and values to educate Labor colleagues and to warn them very publicly about the dangers of allowing the Coalition to capture the growing religious vote. Rudd and other Labor figures, while revealing a typical Labor wariness of the mix of religion and politics, believed that ‘the Coalition is intent on exploiting religion for political purposes.’ At the 2004 election the contrast with Labor had been made somewhat clearer because Labor leader, Mark Latham, was a declared agnostic. Latham was privately dismissive of religion and these views became public on the publication of his diaries. This has led Anglican Bishop Tom Frame to claim that in recent years ‘Labor leaders have exhibited an open disdain for all things religious.’ By 2005 the new Labor leader, Kim Beazley, a Christian himself, had overcome his traditional aversion to mixing religion and politics by speaking about his own faith at an Australian Christian Lobby conference in Canberra….

Religion and politics is also more prominent, though not widespread, in public appointments. The most controversial Howard government appointment in this context has been that of Archbishop Peter Hollingworth as Governor-General in June 2001. Hollingworth at the time of his appointment was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane…..

The most recent development in religion and politics has been the emergence of the Family First Party. The emergence of this new party at the 2004 federal election was just one aspect of the larger relationship between the Howard government and evangelical Christians. Despite the success of FFP it remains a less significant phenomenon than the direct influence of evangelical Christians within the Coalition. Evangelical lobby groups, like the emerging Australian Christian Lobby, are another notable element of this evangelical story……

Hansard, excerpt from Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison’s maiden speech in the House of Representatives, 14 February 2008:

I turn now to the most significant influences on my life—my family and my faith.

Family is the stuff of life and there is nothing more precious. I thank my family members here in the gallery today for their support. It is my hope that all Australians could have the same caring and supportive environment that was provided to me by my parents, John and Marion Morrison, and my late grandparents, Mardie and Sandy Smith and Douglas and Noel Morrison, whom I honour in this place today. My parents laid the foundation for my life. Together with my brother, Alan, they demonstrated through their actions their Christian faith and the value they placed on public and community service. In our family, it has never been what you accumulate that matters but what you contribute. I thank them for their sacrifice, love and, above all, their example. To my wife, Jenny, on Valentine’s Day: words are not enough. She has loved and supported me in all things and made countless sacrifices, consistent with her generous, selfless and caring nature. However, above all, I thank her for her determination to never give up hope for us to have a child. After 14 years of bitter disappointments, God remembered her faithfulness and blessed us with our miracle child, Abbey Rose, on the seventh of the seventh of the seventh, to whom I dedicate this speech today in the hope of an even better future for her and her generation.

Growing up in a Christian home, I made a commitment to my faith at an early age and have been greatly assisted by the pastoral work of many dedicated church leaders, in particular the Reverend Ray Green and pastors Brian Houston and Leigh Coleman. My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda. As Lincoln said, our task is not to claim whether God is on our side but to pray earnestly that we are on His. For me, faith is personal, but the implications are social—as personal and social responsibility are at the heart of the Christian message. In recent times it has become fashionable to negatively stereotype those who profess their Christian faith in public life as ‘extreme’ and to suggest that such faith has no place in the political debate of this country. This presents a significant challenge for those of us, like my colleague, who seek to follow the example of William Wilberforce or Desmond Tutu, to name just two. These leaders stood for the immutable truths and principles of the Christian faith. They transformed their nations and, indeed, the world in the process. More importantly, by following the convictions of their faith, they established and reinforced the principles of our liberal democracy upon which our own nation is built.

Australia is not a secular country—it is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose. Secularism is just one. It has no greater claim than any other on our society. As US Senator Joe Lieberman said, the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not from religion. I believe the same is true in this country.

So what values do I derive from my faith? My answer comes from Jeremiah, chapter 9:24:
... I am the Lord who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord.

From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family. We must recognise an unchanging and absolute standard of what is good and what is evil. Desmond Tutu put it this way:

... we expect Christians ... to be those who stand up for the truth, to stand up for justice, to stand on the side of the poor and the hungry, the homeless and the naked, and when that happens, then Christians will be trustworthy believable witnesses.

These are my principles. My vision for Australia is for a nation that is strong, prosperous and generous: strong in our values and our freedoms, strong in our family and community life, strong in our sense of nationhood and in the institutions that protect and preserve our democracy; prosperous in our enterprise and the careful stewardship of our opportunities, our natural environment and our resources; and, above all, generous in spirit, to share our good fortune with others, both at home and overseas, out of compassion and a desire for justice.

ABC Radio National, 3 September 2008:

Well the Australians are going back in history. The first guy to get involved was man named Norman Makin who was actually not considered a right-winger, he was a long-time Ambassador to the United States, but was an early Cold warrior and saw The Family as a useful vehicle for working with the Conservative side of American politics during the Cold War. More recently, I would just bump into - in the documents -minor Australian politicians, Bruce Baird, a fellow named Ross Cameron, and I suppose Peter Costello has been involved, and I don't know how involved and I just, that's not something I followed up on……


The religious makeup of Australia has changed gradually over the past 50 years. In 1966, Christianity (88 per cent) was the main religion. By 1991, this figure had fallen to 74 per cent, and further to the 2016 figure. Catholicism is the largest Christian grouping in Australia, accounting for almost a quarter (22.6 per cent) of the Australian population.

Australia is increasingly a story of religious diversity, with Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, and Buddhism all increasingly common religious beliefs. Hinduism had the most significant growth between 2006 and 2016, driven by immigration from South Asia.

The growing percentage of Australia’s population reporting no religion has been a trend for decades, and is accelerating. Those reporting no religion increased noticeably from 19 per cent in 2006 to 30 per cent in 2016. The largest change was between 2011 (22 per cent) and 2016, when an additional 2.2 million people reported having no religion…..

The Conversation, 21 August 2017:

Even though the 2016 Census revealed that more than 30% of the Australian population identify as having “no religion” – a label that overtook the Catholic faith figure – Christianity’s effect on Australian politics is far from waning.
Surprisingly, Christians currently number more than 40% of the Coalition government and about 30% of the Labor opposition. This is high for a nation labelled “secular”….

 Kevin RuddTony Abbott and former Liberal senator Cory Bernardi moved Christian values from the periphery to the centre when they declared their strong convictions on faith and policy….

When federal parliament is in session, the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship meets fortnightly, with about 60 members from all sides of politics in attendance. This is more than a quarter of total parliamentary members.

Not all Christians in parliament choose to attend the fellowship. Anecdotal evidence suggests that guest speakers, prayer and Bible studies with focused discussions are regular features of these meetings.

2. Faith-based delivery of social and community services

The government has outsourced approximately two-thirds of community services to faith-based agencies at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars…..

The Age, 18 May 2018:

A senior Mormon recently elected to a powerful position in the Victorian Liberal Party has been accused of not being a legitimate member, fuelling tensions over the rising influence of ultra-conservatives in the state branch.

Three weeks after winning a coveted spot on the party’s administrative committee, infectious diseases specialist Dr Ivan Stratov has had his membership thrown into doubt, amid allegations that he did not get the necessary approval to join the Liberals after initialling running as a Family First candidate at the state election in 2010….

The Age, 3 June 2018:

He’s the most unlikely Liberal Party powerbroker.

The son of a leftist migrant from the Soviet Union; brought up atheist in Melbourne’s suburbs; the first Mormon missionary to baptise new believers in Ukraine in the early 1990s.

But nearly three decades later, HIV specialist and doctor Ivan Stratov is part of a new conservative wave that’s seizing power in the Victorian branch.

An Age investigation has confirmed with senior church sources that at least 10 of the 78 people elected to the Liberals’ administrative bodies at the party’s April state council are Mormons.

This amounts to nearly 13 per cent of all those now in key positions within the Liberals’ organisational wing, compared to just 0.3 per cent of all Australians who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Combined with conservative Catholics, evangelical Christians from churches such as Victory Faith Centre and City Builders, the religious right-wing now has unprecedented sway in Liberal Party politics.

And Stratov – a senior Mormon who won a coveted spot on the administrative committee – is their most influential figure.

When conservative Liberals embarked on an anti-Safe Schools roadshow across Victoria last year to highlight concerns about the program, Stratov was a headline act.

When state MPs debated changing euthanasia laws, the scientist whose papers are peer reviewed, sat on a panel at the party’s Exhibition Street headquarters warning them against it…..

And when acolytes of new state vice-president Marcus Bastiaan and federal MP Michael Sukkar embarked on a takeover of the Victorian branch, Stratov was one of Bastiaan's key lieutenants…..

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Liberals continue to behave badly in 2018 - Part Three


This time it was not Liberal politicians in federal government but Victorian Liberals on the state opposition benches who were behaving badly.......

The Age, 30 March 2018:

The Victorian opposition has broken a promise and reneged on long-standing parliamentary custom by breaking its ‘‘pairing’’ to vote down the Andrews government's controversial fire service reorganisation bill.

Government and crossbenchers in Parliament’s Upper House were in uproar after two Liberal members who had told Labor they could not vote or be present because of their religious beliefs suddenly arrived to vote on Good Friday morning.

‘This is ball tampering of the highest order,’’ said crossbencher Fiona Patten from the Reason Party.

She said the Coalition’s conduct would make it very difficult for her and others in minority parties to have a working relationship with the Opposition.

The controversy erupted after a marathon sitting over the government’s bid to restructure the fire services.

This is the first time the upper house has ever sat on Good Friday.

Around midnight, Ms Patten said that Liberal MP Bernie Finn had told the house he could not work on Good Friday. At the same time, Craig Ondarchie also indicated he was not going to be in Parliament House for similar reasons. One Labor MP said Mr Ondarchie had been acting like he was ‘‘holding a prayer vigil’’.

Mr Finn on Thursday night had told Parliament, in a debate about Labor pressing on with its legislation despite it being Easter: ‘‘I have long believed in: you do not work on Good Friday — any other day of the year. That is the rule. Even when my birthday falls on Good Friday, I do not celebrate it on Good Friday.’’

In a similar vein, and at about the same time, Mr Ondarchie said: "Today is the day that Jesus died. It is a very important day. Today I want to be with my church family. I want to take up your offer, as do some of my colleagues, about accepting the pair that you have offered."

A ‘‘pairing’’ is an unofficial agreement from both sides of politics that, when an MP is unable to attend a vote, allows an MP from the opposing side to also miss the vote, so numbers remain matched.

The government granted the pairs requested by the opposition and Labor ministers Philip Dalidakis and Jaala Pulford, the deputy leader in the upper house, excused themselves from the vote and went home.

Mr Dalidakis, assuming he had a pair, travelled to Sydney on Friday morning.
But when the vote occurred just after 11am, Mr Ondarchie and Mr Finn returned to the chamber.

After Mr Finn and Mr Ondarchie’s return to Parliament, Labor’s bill was defeated 19-18.

Labor Upper House MP Cesar Melham said the pair were dishonourable and ‘‘should hang their head in shame’’.

Ms Patten said that when the Mr Ondarchie and Mr Finn came back into the chamber they could not look anyone in the eye.

Labor's upper house leader, Gavin Jennings, said the government ‘‘had generously offered those pairs because we had members praying in the parliament last night to be with their families and be with their church communities on the most holy day on the Christian calendar’’.

‘‘And those people who prayed in front of us and begged us to let them go, returned after we had given them a pair – right at the death knell, was when they returned, to betray parliamentary convention.’’……

The hypocritical antics of Messrs. Craig Philip Ondarchie and Bernard Thomas C. Finn as set out in the Parliament of Victoria Legislative Council Daily Hansard:

09:55am Thursday 29 April 2018

Mr ONDARCHIE (Northern Metropolitan) (09:55) — As John 3:16 teaches us:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Today is Maundy Thursday, tomorrow is Good Friday and it is the most solemn day of the Christian year. It is the day our saviour died for us. It is the day we were redeemed from our sins by the voluntary death of God himself at the hands of man. On Good Friday, according to the gospels, Jesus was taken before Pilate in the morning, sent to Herod, returned to Pilate, was mocked and beaten, saw Barabbas released in his stead, was crowned with thorns, was condemned to death, carried the crushing burden of the cross, told the weeping women what would happen in his future, was crucified between two thieves and forgave those who crucified him. As Luke 23:34 tells us, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’, and he cried out and died. It is the most solemn day of the Christian calendar.

I close my contribution in prayer:
Jesus, Today we pause to remember your sacrificial love
That shone light into the darkness
That bore life from such emptiness
That revealed hope out of devastation
That spoke truth through incrimination
That released freedom in spite of imprisonment
And brought us forgiveness instead of punishment.
Thank you that we can now walk in the light of your life, Hope, truth, freedom and forgiveness, This day and everyday. Amen.

Approx. 23:12pm Thursday 29 April 2018

Mr ONDARCHIE — Members, the blackness that hangs over my head tonight is associated with the passing of my Lord and Saviour on this evening. At this very time on the first Good Friday Jesus had been arrested and taken before the high priests Annas and Caiaphas and it was during this time that Peter denied him. I think this place is not about being tactical for me, Mr Jennings; it is about respect. It is about respect for —

00:15am Friday 30 March 2018

Mr ONDARCHIE — I move: That the committee now report progress. In doing so I alert the house to the fact that we are now officially in Good Friday. I have made my point very clear. I do look to get some confirmation from the minister at the table, Minister Jennings, and the other minister who made an offer to members of the house that anybody who wants a pair can have a pair. This is a very religious day for me. You heard me talk about that –

00:20am Friday 30 March 2018

Mr FINN — I very strongly support the motion moved by Mr Ondarchie, and I have to say to you I have been sitting here since midnight and I feel quite ill, physically ill, to be sitting here on Good Friday when I know that I should not work on Good Friday, that this is a day of extreme solemnity; it is a very sacred day. I know there are some members on the government side who do not understand those of us of faith, but the fact of the matter is that it is beyond the realms of decency to force people to work, to breach their religious rights, as we have seen. I know there are members of the government who do not actually believe in freedom of religion — and they are showing that just at the minute. I heard Mr Jennings say that every one of us who asked for a pair would get one. Now, I want a pair because merely being here, as I say, is making me feel ill when I know I should be elsewhere. I want a pair; Mr Ondarchie has said he wants a pair. I would be very, very keen for Mr Jennings to get to his feet and clarify if the offer still stands for each and every member, as he said, who wants a pair to be given a pair. That is something that I think he has got to do, because he said it. I mean, we didn’t ask for it; he offered it, and it is only reasonable that he now clarify the situation, given that there is some significant confusion as to whether that offer was genuine. He is either fair dinkum or he is not fair dinkum. If he is fair dinkum, then we can get on with it. If he is not fair dinkum, we know that he can’t be trusted and we move on from that in my members statement today. You heard me talk about it when we broached this subject an hour or a bit more ago. This is the day that my Lord was crucified. I do not want to be here. I want to be with my family and I want to be with my church family. I find it highly disrespectful that on this very important day in my faith’s calendar we are still here. I think it appropriate, Minister, that with respect, selfishly, to me and to others who understand the importance of this day today we stop this now. We can come back to this. It is not time critical. I note that in your motion this morning on the rising of the house that we are going to reconvene early in May. We can come back and do this then. Today is the day that Jesus died. It is a very important day. Today I want to be with my church family. I want to take up your offer, as do some of my colleagues, about accepting the pair that you have offered. This is not acceptable.

Those with long memories will recall that Coalition MPs and senators have a history of attempting to distort parliamentary processes. The Night of the Long Prawns during a federal parliamentary sitting in 1974, the refusal of NSW Premier Tom Lewis in 1975 and Qld Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen also in 1975 to follow parliamentary convention and accept a nominee put forward by a political party to fill a casual vacancy in a seat which to that point in time had been held by that same party, are just three examples. 

Friday, 16 March 2018

With a royal commission having found that all major religions house and protect paedophiles we still find Liberal Party MPs seeking to extend the influence of priests & ministers in the Australian school system in 2018



Dozens of federal Liberal MPs have reportedly signed a petition calling for a 25 per cent funding increase for the controversial National Schools Chaplaincy Program. 

Whether the budget can afford the funding increase or whether the money would be better spent elsewhere are interesting issues. The bigger legal issue is that the way the chaplains program operates is illegal…….

The High Court has struck down the chaplains program as illegal twice already. In 2012, the High Court ruled the program illegal because the federal government was paying for the chaplains program without any legislation authorising the spending. To overcome the High Court decision, federal Parliament quickly passed legislation to authorise the spending.

The chaplains program again was struck down again in 2014. Federal Parliament can only pass legislation dealing with certain subject matters. The High Court ruled that school chaplains do not fall within any of those.

To get around its own lack of power to run the chaplains program, the federal government now grants money to the states for them to run it. Lots of federal government programs operate this way with the states running programs on behalf of the federal government using federal money.

Getting a job as a chaplain requires a person to be recognised as qualified for the role "through formal ordination, commissioning, recognised religious qualifications or endorsement by a recognised or accepted religious institution". In other words, a person has to be religious and endorsed by a religious group in order to get a job as a chaplain. Atheists need not apply.

Individual schools pick which religion they want their chaplain to be a member of and then recruit a person from that religion for the job.

But it makes no practical sense to require a chaplain to have a particular religion. Chaplains are strictly prohibited from religious proselytising, although there are sometimes reports of chaplains breaking the rules. The High Court even commented that despite the religious sounding job title, the actual work chaplains do has nothing much to do with religion. Justice Dyson Heydon wrote that the work of chaplains "could have been done by persons who met a religious test. It could equally have been done by persons who did not".

In other words, there is no genuine occupational requirement for a chaplain to be a member of any particular religion or to be religious at all. The federal government has simply decided that it wants all chaplains to be religious.

Requiring a chaplain to be a member of a particular religion is inconsistent with the nature of public schools……

Requiring a chaplain to be a member of a particular religion is also illegal. Each state has anti-discrimination or equal opportunity legislation making it illegal to discriminate against a person on the ground of religion in employment decisions. These anti-discrimination rules apply to public schools and their hiring decisions.

Public schools cannot advertise a teacher’s job and require that only Hindus are eligible to apply. Public schools cannot advertise a cleaner’s job and require that only Baptists are eligible to apply. The reason is because that would be discrimination on the ground of religion in employment.

It’s exactly the same with chaplains. Requiring a chaplain to be a member of a particular religion is religious discrimination and completely illegal for public schools…..

The state anti-discrimination commissions should do something about public schools breaching religious discrimination laws. If they don’t, someone will eventually go to court and the school chaplains program will probably be ruled illegal for the third, and hopefully final, time.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Does the Catholic Church's great paedophile protection racket continue unabated?


AUSTRALIA

Brisbane Times, 10 March 2018:

The Catholic Church has failed to fully accept the horrific impact of child sexual abuse and its own role in a tragedy of “epic proportions”, a member of the royal commission has said.

In a surprisingly frank speech, Robert Fitzgerald - one of the six commissioners that oversaw the recently completed, five year inquiry - has slammed the church’s approach to abuse survivors, and its failure to tackle practices that contributed to the scourge of abuse and the secrecy around it.

Speaking at a Catholic Social Services Conference in Melbourne late last month, Mr Fitzgerald highlighted the ‘’disease’’ of ‘clericalism’ - the belief that the church’s male-only clergy are mystical beings, accountable to the Pope and to God, not to civil society or church laity.

Mr Fitzgerald, a practising Catholic, described the leadership of the church as "arrogant’’:

"A church that placed its own reputation above the interests of those victims and survivors and did so knowingly and willingly in a way that would cause further harm to those victims.’’

The final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, delivered last December, made 400 recommendations to secular and religious institutions.

But already the Catholic church has rejected any changes to celibacy or to the seal of confession.

Archbishop Denis Hart said even if a priest admitted to acts of child abuse during confession, the seal was ‘’inviolable’’. Instead he would encourage the abuser to admit their crimes outside confession.

Mr Fitzgerald, in his speech, described a church divided between those that accepted the evidence of abuse and the need for reform - including a greater role for women - and those conservative Catholics who were "yet to fully understand what has just occurred’’.

He said the church was the only institution he’d ever known to have the answers to such major problems "but refuse in fact to look to those answers, look to those solutions’’.

The scale of abuse recorded by the royal commission across all institutions, secular and religious, was immense, affecting countless, tens of thousands of abused children, most of whom were now adults.

But such abuse was particularly prevalent in Catholic institutions. Nearly 62 per cent of all people who notified the royal commission of abuse in a religious setting were abused in a Catholic institution……

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
MyAJC, 9 March 2018:

The legislation, dubbed the “Hidden Predator Act,” extends the statute of limitations for victims from age 23 to 38, and creates other avenues for adults to sue long after that age. It passed 170-0 on the floor of the House of Representatives, despite what those close to the process say was quiet lobbying by the church, the Boy Scouts and other entities that would face increased exposure to liability….

The bill’s chief author, Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, had accused them of working behind the scenes. He blames them for amendments that reduced the exposure of organizations, but he had no evidence of their efforts beyond word of mouth until Friday morning. He shared an email with the AJC from the office of the senator whose committee will determine the bill’s fate.

Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. His assistant forwarded Spencer an email from Perry McGuire, a lobbyist for the Catholic Church. McGuire’s amendments would strike the extension of the statute of limitations and make it even more difficult than it is now to sue organizations.

“If they adopt that language from Perry McGuire as a substitute bill, then Georgia will continue to be a predator-friendly state,” Spencer said. It shows “that the Catholic Church is continuing to cover up wickedness.”

Archbishop announces opposition to Georgia HB 605

ATLANTA—Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory has released the following letter in response to HB 605, a bill that is under consideration in the current session of the Georgia General Assembly.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

When I am called to stand before our Heavenly Father to make a full and final accounting of my priestly life and ministry, I will first humbly ask His Mercy for all the times I’ve fallen short in my service to Him and to His people. If I’m asked what I did to bring people to Him, I’ll recall the countless Sacraments I’ve celebrated with so many of you, the faith-filled social interactions we have shared, the remarkable opportunities to teach and to lead and to be present during moments of incredible joy and incalculable sorrow.

And when He asks me that for which I am most thankful in my service to His Church, it will have been my work in restoring trust to His people, assuring safe environments in Catholic settings that serve as examples to the wider community, and helping to bring about healing and hope to those in our faith family who have been sexually abused by members of our Catholic clergy – work I still wish more than anything on earth had never been necessary, work that we can never call complete.

In our Archdiocese of Atlanta, the Office of Child and Youth Protection helps us carry on our Promise to Protect and Pledge to Heal by creating and maintaining safe environments and walking alongside survivors of sexual abuse on their journey to healing. The efforts of this office, along with all dioceses in the United States, are audited on a yearly basis by an independent firm who verifies compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Our Victim Assistance director ministers to those who have suffered abuse without question, no matter when or where the abuse took place. Our Office of Safe Environment ensures compliance of all individuals working with children, youth, and vulnerable individuals by offering comprehensive abuse prevention training and background checks. We continue to operate a 24-hour hotline (888-437-0764) for anyone, Catholic or not, who has been abused by a member of the clergy, a man or woman religious, or a lay associate. I am pleased to say our child and youth protection program is among the most robust anywhere – within the Catholic Church or outside it – and our audit record for the past two decades speaks for itself.

With that commitment to safety and healing in mind, I write to inform you of an extraordinarily unfair bill currently pending in our state legislature. If passed, House Bill 605 could drastically damage our ability to carry out the mission of our Catholic Church in the state of Georgia because of the following:

HB 605 would allow lawsuits against churches, private schools, businesses and non-profit organizations for actions asserted to have occurred many decades ago, potentially as far back as the 1940s, and the accused are very often deceased. 

Recognizing that these lawsuits can be very difficult if not impossible to defend, and risking grave injustice, the vast majority of states simply do not permit them.

HB 605 discriminates between the Church and the state. All governmental agencies – park districts, public school districts, care facilities, and so forth – are inexplicably immune from the potential devastating effects of these lawsuits. Churches, religious and private schools, non-profits and businesses are affected.

We have always fully supported criminal prosecution of and lawsuits against any individual abuser of children, no matter how long ago the abuse is alleged to have occurred. Additionally, for the past two decades the Catholic Church in Georgia has had what may be the strongest safe environment program, non-profit or otherwise, in the state. Our Church and our schools have strict zero tolerance policies regarding sexual abuse of any vulnerable person. HB 605 does not protect anyone. Rather, innocent people and the organizations to which they belong will be radically impacted based on allegations against individuals who may no longer even be alive and cannot speak for themselves.

In short, HB 605 represents a policy that is bad for the citizens of Georgia. As your Archbishop, I implore you to contact your state senator and other elected officials to let them know you join me and over one million of your fellow Catholics in opposition to HB 605. Here is a link that will help you locate the state senator in your district.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory
Archdiocese of Atlanta

BRITAIN

Independent UK, 20 August 2017:

The Catholic Church and British local authorities have been accused of using a legal loophole to avoid paying compensation to victims of child sex abuse.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, a government agency, has denied some children financial settlements because it said the victims had “consented” to the abuse, a group of charities has warned.

Lawyers representing victims have warned that this line of defence is becoming increasingly common…….

 “No child ever gives their ‘consent’ to being abused, and the increased use of this line of defence, although still quite rare, is worrying,” said Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England. "I have contacted the Ministry of Justice previously and again recently about this issue and the Government should look urgently at what can be done to tackle it.”

The Sunday Telegraph reported that it had seen documents regarding two cases where the defence was used. A claimant who was raped at the age of 15 was told by lawyers representing the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark that his abuse "actually occurred in the context of a consensual relationship (albeit one the claimant in retrospect now appears to regret)".

The victim said "I was below the legal age of consent anyway and there's a grooming element to that kind of situation. It was totally disregarded and it made me feel really small." The case was finally settled, with the Catholic Church paying out £80,000.

IRELAND

The Guardian, 7 March 2018:

Soca is angry about a deal between the Catholic church and the Irish government in 2002 that resulted in the taxpayer footing most of the bill for compensating those abused in religious institutions.

The deal resulted in the church having to pay out €128m of a €1.3bn compensation bill.

Last year, Ireland’s comptroller and auditor general found that only €85m had been paid out of church funds. On top of its criticism of the deal, Soca said the church should at least be forced to pay out in full the agreed €128m.

BACKGROUND

Newcastle Herald, 11 January 2018:

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse accepted Mr Tapsell’s evidence that for 15 centuries before 1917 church law required child sex offender priests to be stripped of their status as priests and handed over to civil authorities for punishment.

It accepted Mr Tapsell’s evidence that Pope Pius XI in 1922 imposed the first blanket secrecy provisions over Catholic Church child sex cases which stopped reporting to civil authorities; they were expanded by Pope John XXIII in 1962 and Pope Paul VI in 1974, who told bishops there was no room for the exercise of conscience on the matter, and reinforced by the now sainted Pope John Paul II in 1983.

In September, 2014 Pope Francis rejected requests by two United Nations’ human rights committees to abolish the church’s secrecy provisions.