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February 29, 2024

Diktats of dictatorial gods

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While the Rev Alistair McRae, who is president of the National Assembly of the Uniting Church of Australia, equivocated on the issue of same-sex marriage on ABC RN last Wednesday, Rev Harry Herbert penned a strong op-ed article strongly supporting the cause, published in Thursday’s National Times. (Herbert is executive director of Uniting Care NSW/ACT.)

My book, Speak Now: Australian Perspectives on Same Sex Marriage, carries strong articles in favour of same-sex marriage by a Baptist pastor in Melbourne, Rev Nathan Nettleton, and retired Uniting Church luminary, Rev Dorothy McRae McMahon.

Nettleton, who had previously testified to a Senate inquiry on changing the marriage laws, was required by the church higher-ups to offer the disclaimer thereafter that his views did not represent those of the Baptist church

Last December, Matt Glover, the Lilydale Baptist pastor who had expressed support for gay marriage, was sacked at a secret church meeting to which he was not invited. The Lilydale church office yesterday confirmed that Mr Glover was no longer senior pastor, but said the congregation had been instructed to remain silent.

We might well ask: if all of these folk claim to be interpreting the will of god, which side is this ‘god’ on, and whose version of deity rules public discourse? Will there soon be as many deities in the so-called Christian West as there were in ancient India? The whole matter of seeking to know the will of god is fraught with difficulty; to want to impose that version on the rest of the population is, too.

Neither of the bills to be debated in Canberra in the coming months requires ministers of religion to conduct same-sex marriages in their churches were the Marriage Act to be amended. Trying to impose wildly differing worldviews on the rest of us is eerily reminiscent of the diktats of fundamentalists in conservative religious societies where women are veiled and homosexuals executed. This is not appropriate for a secular, multicultural society, such as Australia, where religious beliefs and practices are respected but remain, by law, a matter of choice.

Dr Victor Marsh, Ocean Shores


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