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March 3, 2024

The Lord and that ‘dance’

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Two things happened during the last week that perfectly illustrate the federal government’s position on religious discrimination in Australia.

It’s a topic they spent months focussing on last year in preference to less vital issues, like how to handle opening the country during a still-active pandemic, or whether maybe ordering some of those Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) would be a smart idea.

Firstly, Attorney-General, Michaelia Cash, released the newest iteration of the Religious Discrimination Bill, thereby confirming that yeah, all those supposed protections that she’d promised regarding preventing gay teachers and students getting summarily kicked out of private schools weren’t happening after all, soz. 

Secondly, a video was leaked of a Revival Camp, held by megachurch Hillsong in the Newcastle region.

The video showed a close-packed crowd of maskless congregants dancing and singing to live music, at a time when public dancing and singing in NSW is banned at all venues (even while masked, seated, and socially-distanced), owing to well-founded concerns about public safety. 

With artists and venues once again taking financial and professional punches for the greater good, this wasn’t merely maddening; it was an unambiguous insult. 

Especially when it became evident that Hillsong was subjected to exactly zero consequences for this breach, aside from an announcement from Premier Dominic Perrottet that he was shocked – simply SHOCKED, I tells you! – that such a thing was going on, and that NSW Police had given them a stern admonishment not to do it again. 

One might assume that the Church wasn’t overly concerned about a public finger-wagging from a government clearly disinclined to do anything as gauche as actually policing their activities on public health grounds.

At a guess, Hillsong is probably rather more interested in hunting down whoever leaked that footage and doing some policing of their own.

Taken together, these two events paint a deeply unsettling picture of the state of religious thought of a certain flavour of conservative-leaning Christianity in Australia.

And it’s important, because this proposed new law isn’t about levelling a playing field or righting an existing wrong. This is about politically-connected organisations demanding the right to be exempt from rules they don’t care for, no matter the consequences.

After all, this was a bill that was promised in 2017, in the wake of legislating marriage equality following the same-sex marriage postal survey not-actually-a-plebiscite, in which gay folks were finally allowed to marry and where religious conservatives lost precisely nothing and still loudly demanded to be compensated.

And it’s worth remembering also that the postal survey not-a-plebiscite wasn’t a good-faith process to come to a conclusion on an important social question.

It was a dirty trick by the Coalition government of Tony Abbott to be seen to be doing something – about legislation that a majority of Australians supported – without actually doing it, and was deliberately designed to be non-binding in order that the government could merrily ignore the result if it ran counter to what Tony preferred. 

Indeed, the only reason the Marriage Act was eventually amended at all was that the non-homophobic Malcolm Turnbull had become PM in the interim, while Abbott and other men of supposedly deeply-held principle (including deputy PM Barnaby Joyce and current PM Scott Morrison) literally scurried out of the House of Representatives so they wouldn’t have to cast a vote.

You know, because they totally respected this very important process. 

That’s the spirit we see in a law that seeks to out children to their potentially unforgiving parents by permitting them to be expelled for something they can’t possibly change, and the spirit we see when a church smugly pretends that a virus can somehow distinguish between a live gig at a pub and a live gig in a Revival Camp.

There are very real issues of discrimination against people of faith in Australia, as anyone who has worn a hijab on a train, or been publicly Jewish on the internet, can attest.

Expanding the Racial Discrimination Act to accept cultural identity as being equivalent to and often indistinguishable from national or racial identity would seem to be an obvious starting point. 

However, that doesn’t seem to be the main concern driving the Morrison government’s legislation. 

Instead, we have a proposed law that seeks to punish and ostracise people for their sexuality, which is being supported by organisations that don’t themselves adhere to laws when they don’t suit them.

For a nation supposedly dedicated to the Fair Go, it seems distinctly un-Australian.

And in any case, doesn’t the Lord Himself detest the use of dishonest scales? 

For more information visit www.andrewpstreet.com.

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  1. For many years the religious right has been running vigorous and well-funded campaigns against gay rights and fundamental equality. Having lost these arguments they now take their cue from the United States to reframe the debate as “religious liberty”.
    This bill seeks to fix a non-existent problem. It is a trojan horse for the freedom to discriminate and to push their narrow beliefs on us all.

  2. What a strange article !
    I struggle to see the relevance of the fiasco of religious nutters flagrantly ignoring the law, and lacking any sense community responsibility and probably causing the spread of illness and death. Recent Liberal Governments have demonstrated, beyond doubt, their preference of these delusional sects, above science or any rational democratic process. We saw that pathetic excuse for a man, John Howard, insinuate catholics etc. into the school system to prey on children.
    This is a despicable example of this governments selective administration, of straight forward health legislation and of course deserves universal condemnation.
    The rest of this meandering piece seems to be equating this, to the internal proclivities of these admittedly disturbed groups but there is no comparison because they are not the government nor the legal system, and don’t deserve the tolerance we now lavish on the deviant communities.
    Cheers , G”)

  3. Religion in Australia oppressed me, a gay man, for many years, so there’s no way in Hell (or on Earth) that I’ll give them any leeway in return.

    It’s way beyond time that organised religion – a very profitable business – was reigned in and, among other things, made to pay tax on the unbelievable pile of assets they own.

    A pox upon their houses (churches)!

  4. Sooooo well said “nullifidian’…….re above insightful & intelligent comment. There was NO problem within existing Discrimination legislation. However, the religious right were NEVER gonna accept gay teachers /gay marriage or maybe even gay bus drivers for that matter? Abbott was hoping that the plebiscite would be lost in favour of his position I’m guessing? Abbott needed to present ‘something’ due to public opinion finally demanding gay rights (overall), but if not for Turnbull this bigotry may still be going on and on and on….. Sadly the religious dinosaurs have our cunning/deceitful & incompetent PM on their side. Lord help us & I’m an atheist.

  5. Spare me. It’s a Trogan Horse made out of wormwood – a source
    of bitterness. The religious right has no idea what the word ‘liberty’

  6. Andrew P Street good intentions !!
    But if you are so offended by the majority of the population who by all accounts are
    Christians..then may i suggest you move to a Muslim nation were you may fit in with your
    Ideologies views or opinions.. and see how they accept the LGBTQ + Communities.??
    Or better still do a article on the plight
    Of the Afghanistan women ? Or are you to scared ?

    • Actually last census more people identified as non believers than believers.anyway it’s not a bill about just the christians. Perhaps if you read your statement not much love there but classic bigotry.

    • And there he goes again, our man the Barrow, with his game plan of distract and divert. Pulling the Muslim card, c’mon man. What a coincidence that 1. Your man President ScamMO has been on permanent mute over the Hillsong Affair in Newcastle and 2. Your man Deadly Domicron doesn’t dare to enforce his own Public Health Orders against the Hillsong party set. But I guess it all part of the Lord’s work on Earth, super spreading Covid events, yeah – God knows, the Covid has no better friends than Scomicron and Domicron.

    • It seems to me that your poor excuse of a government (a loose definition for the rabble they are) is trying very hard to bring in identical hate laws to those in other countries you are condemning.

  7. Truth hurts Stefanie.. why is it then that
    Most that comment here have bias views or opinions on the Christian faith ? unconscious bias at it’s best .. other faiths 100%
    Do not accept the LGBTQ communities.
    But this will not be raised in any way shape or form in the Echo pages … why not ?


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