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Religious freedom Talibangelicals have jumped the shark

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

While our Government's focus on religious freedom is a hot topic, it's reminding many that religion is an outdated concept, including Noely Neate.

I AM REALLY STRUGGLING with all this “freedom of religion” focus in both our media and the Government. Personally, I feel that helping our rising figures of homelessness and those living in abject poverty due to Centrelink and other Government social service failures is a hell of a lot more important than the status of religion in this nation. The Opposition seems to be in lockstep for some bizarre reason – pushed by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), many News Corp identities and what I term “Talibangelicals” in our Government – that religion and freedom to do whatever the hell they like is the most important priority.

Sadly, my hopes of those who need the Government’s attention will not be addressed by all these so-called Christians because our predominantly Christian Parliament consider the plight of a multi-millionaire footballer being sacked by his code for telling LGTBTIQ they will go to hell – on multiple occasions – and Christian entities perversely also wanting the right to sack the so-called “Godless”.

There is nothing on the agenda of our Government as to addressing the issues of the most vulnerable in this nation struggling just to survive at the moment, but there is, of course, a Religious Discrimination Bill.

Personally, I don’t see how the religious have been discriminated against. What is an even bigger worry is the second part of the above, ‘including amendments to marriage law’. We don’t know what this means. It is not that long ago we had a horrible national so-called “debate” in regard to marriage equality and same-sex marriage became legal in this nation, after an awful lot of LGBTIQ were harmed by the “debate”. So, what do the Government want to change? After all, this is their own legislation that enacted that law change.

I have to say, the reason why I am struggling with this is not because I am religious. I’m not, though I did grow up as a Catholic (schooling and all), but because I judge issues on facts, I like to think that nine times out of ten if I dislike or disagree with something, I have valid reasons for doing so. Sadly, since the beginning of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, my disdain for religion and their privileged position in our supposedly secular society has just infuriated me more and more. I have reached the state where religion just being mentioned has my hackles rising. I’m not proud of this. I have always been a sort of “live and let live” type. But I feel this way no longer.

Everywhere I look, I see religion – particularly Christianity – being treated in such a privileged manner. They were not shut down after findings of the Royal Commission, as any other entity would be. It barely even made front pages — in fact, only one national paper even put it on a front page in light of absolutely shocking revelations of 4,444 victims of abuse in Catholic Church alone. Personally, knowing many who did not give evidence at the Royal Commission, I think that figure could be doubled and would still be conservative.

Even when a redress scheme was put in place for these victims, so many of the organisations have still not signed up to it. Over a year, still not signed up. Of course, with the Christian religions, they are split up into heaps of different legal entities and are still not taking it seriously when it comes to “doing the right thing”, even if media tend to say they are supporting. To be frank, if this was anyone but the Church, they would just be forced to pay or put into receivership to pay their debt. Not the Church, they're untouchable.

Even looking at George Pell — he ran the “Melbourne Response” back in the day, which was supposed to address victims of child sex abuse.

But this is the killer line as per the Farrah Tomazin piece from 30 June 2019:

‘The Church’s own figures reveal that between 1996 and March 2014, the archdiocese spent $34.27 million to run its so-called Melbourne Response, but only $9.72 million – or 28 per cent of it – was used to compensate 307 child sex abuse victims.’

Only 28 per cent went to victims. From all reports, those victims who did finally get a payout were put through hell to even get the minuscule amount they finally put out and terrorised by Church lawyers with odious terms in their contracts. Again, something that was not front page news — the Church is so lucky how scandal seems to escape scrutiny which would be normal for other entities like smaller business or unions.

Christian religions and their mouthpieces like the ACL have had an undue influence in all sorts of issues in recent years alone, generally in a harmful way for those who are victims or needing social services:

In all of the above, the religious organisations have tried to stop getting off the ground, spent squillions trying to stop being legislated, barely co-operated and/or acted in a most unedifying and, I would say, not very Christian way by smearing and saying the most hurtful and misleading things about the victims (or those who should have been protected of the above). They are often aided and abetted by the media and politicians in this nation.

I have no problem with religious types practising their religion as long as they don't harm others. Religious organisations are already allowed to discriminate when it comes to employment, something I strongly disagree with when receiving taxpayer funds. Sure, they want to do whatever they like within their own little church and that's fine, but when ‘Non-government organisations deliver an estimated two-thirds of community services in Australia. Twenty of the 25 biggest welfare agencies are faith-based’, this is not on.

Most of these Government contracts are for dealing with vulnerable people – aged care, family support, employment, mental health, youth and homeless programs – so not only are they allowed to sack any employees that don’t meet their faith's guidelines, will they also be refusing to help those in need with more discriminatory powers.

Not to mention, how is it in any way acceptable to receive taxpayer funds to actively discriminate against taxpayers, particularly in light of Section 116 of the Australian Constitution:

‘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.’

I would bring your attention to ‘or for imposing any religious observance’, which our Government seems to have forgotten.

I particularly note this when it comes to discriminatory rules allowed for religious organisations, privilege and, of course, we cannot forget the National School Chaplaincy Program in state schools which is a colossal rort for the Scripture Union and waste of funds that would be better spent on desperately needed “qualified” counsellors in under-funded state schools.

All the above issues – and more – have resulted in me despising religion.

I despise how they are given such a voice in media. I despise how they have so much influence over what is supposed to be a secular Government. I despise how they are accorded so much respect in society when, to be quite frank, in recent years, those Christian organisations who are actually “being Christian” are a tiny minority. I despise how their actions over recent years now have me being suspicious and actively despising religion.

As a final thought, how perverse is this? My first real conscious sense of “fairness” and “doing the right thing” came from my Catholic schooling. In third grade, there was an altercation at the bubblers where a first-grade kid accidentally splashed a fourth-grade kid who, in hindsight, was probably embarrassed. The older kid took it out on the little first grader, yelling at him and scaring the hell out of him. We all stood around, dumbfounded.

Anyhow, Sister Marion had seen this unfold, yelled at all us and sent the fourth grader to the Principal, sent the grade one kid to the nurse, then yelled at the group of us standing around and marched us off to an empty classroom and lectured us – in that scary, stern way that nuns can – as to how we should all be ashamed of ourselves for doing nothing to stop what happened. How knowing something is wrong and doing nothing to address it was in some ways worse than the person who is transgressing, as they may be in rage/misunderstood/sick and not understand what they are doing, but to stand by and do nothing when you see someone scared or in pain and you know better was the worse sin.

Thanks, Sister Marion, for that lesson I still live by to this day. Shame your own religious brothers and sisters don’t.

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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