Extract from speech by the late John Kaye (1955 – 2016)

Originally published in New Matilda, March, 2016. Edited for length.

Extract from speech

by the late John Kaye (1955 – 2016)

Greens MLC, John Kaye PhD, recently died unexpectedly from cancer. He was aged 61. John was one of the main supporters of the Rationalist Association of NSW. In 2008 he wrote a speech for a conference he helped sponsor in the New South Wales Parliament. The conference was held just before the arrival of the Pope in Sydney for World Youth Day. As a tribute, we reproduce an extract from his speech, which is as relevant today as it was then.

Thank you all for being here today, to not only sound the alarm on the intrusion of church into state, but to also celebrate the achievements of separation of the two and the magnificent public institutions it has protected and fostered.

And sound the alarm we must. This weekend the people of Sydney will be witness, unwillingly in most cases, to the opening acts in a gross violation of that separation.

Public money is pouring into a religious festival conducted largely on public open space. There is little hope of recovering any of it, either by the state itself, or by the city’s small businesses. The fulsome subsidy stands as testament to the breakdown of the idea that the state should give favour to no one religion.

Unlike the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which is so tiresomely used by Catholic World Youth Day boosters as a supposed precedent, it will be almost impossible for any Sydney dweller to escape next week’s triumphalist display of religious fervour.

And yet Catholic World Youth Day is small beer compared to the billions of dollars gifted to religious schools each year by state and federal governments, money that goes directly to the advancing of one religion or another.

A robust separation of church and State provides essential protections of the liberty of all members of society. Not only does it ensure that no one religion dominates and imposes itself on persons of other faiths or none, it also ensures that the State can operate in a rational and accountable fashion. It is thus alarming to see attempts to undermine this separation and to compromise the essentially secular nature of Australia’s public life.

From public funding of faith-based schools and events such as World Youth Day, to attempts by religious minorities to restrict the basic human rights of others who do not conform to their narrowly defined constraints, Australia, like the rest of the world, is now in the midst of a debate to determine appropriate limits on the interference of organised religion in the decisions of the state.

This is not a debate, as it so often mischievously portrayed, about restricting the rights of people to live their lives according to their faith. There is no attempt to constrain or limit the ability of any individual or community to adhere to a religion and to derive personal comfort, life direction and spiritual enrichment from their beliefs and from the rituals and community of their faith.

It is not the secularists who proselytise or seek to change the views of others.

Nor is it a debate about muzzling or devaluing the valuable contributions to public life made by many people motivated by religious belief.

We do not seek to denigrate the role played in public debates by some church spokespeople who provide valuable evidence and arguments that contribute to the public policy debate. Tim Costello on gambling, Ann Wansbrough on the late — but too slow to pass on — Work Choices, and Bill Crews on services for the homeless, are fine examples of church people making valuable policy contributions, based on the evidence and experience of their work with vulnerable members of society.

The interface between organised religion and the State becomes problematic when a particular faith or religion seeks what Tim Costello calls “privileged access to power”, when representatives of religious institutions enter into a debate by asserting that their faith holds a superior position to the faith or reasoned opinion of others.

Rather than arguing from the commonly held concepts and publicly shared language of social justice and human rights, such interventions rely on the absoluteness of their special received wisdom. Examples of this include the expectation of exemptions from anti-discrimination and vilification laws, the assumption of moral superiority in debates about sexual and biological ethics, and the defence of scripture classes in public schools.

And what adds sting to the behaviour of these church people is the inability of politicians and the political process to resist their advances.

The extent of that failure is writ large in the success of churches in ensuring that the vast majority of public school students of no religious affiliation cannot use productively the time set aside for religious instruction. Organised religion has achieved a stranglehold on one hour a week within the very heart of secular Australia, public education. Their message to the heathen kids is: be religious or be bored. I think they might need some marketing advice there.

There is hope here. The P&C*, the St James Ethics Centre and the Greens are pushing to end this silliness and return that hour to public instruction where it belongs.

In 2005, the Reverend Danny Nalliah of Catch the Fire Ministries most offensively asserted the inherently violent nature of Islam and suggested that Muslim places of worship were “Satan’s strongholds”, which should be “pulled down”.

Evangelical Christians throughout Australia demanded that he be exempted from existing Victorian law preventing vilification of people of other religious beliefs. When he was found guilty, their first response was to demand the law be repealed rather than to question whether Mr Nalliah might have some soul-searching to do.

In doing so, they were seeking to give privilege to their religious beliefs and their practitioners.

During the debate over recent legislation to grant equality of parenting rights to same sex couples, members of parliament received materials from the Fatherhood Foundation, which suggested that gay and lesbian people are mentally disordered, promiscuous, and much more likely to be paedophiles, despite overwhelming objective evidence to the contrary.

These statements would probably be illegal if the documents were not published by a religious organisation.

This Parliament is regularly subjected to claims that Australia is a Christian nation, with the consequence that all laws passed here should be compatible with Christian ethics.

We still face the anachronism of opening each sitting day with an explicitly Christian prayer, although the group of us who stand around outside, waiting for prayers to finish before entering the chamber, does make an interesting cross-party fellowship.

Perhaps the greatest cause for concern for the future of a state that survives on diversity is the growth of faith-based schools. These are the relatively new but rapidly growing cohort of schools that are based on muscular and fundamentalist Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

They take the religiosity of traditional Catholic and Protestant schools to new dimensions of fundamentalism, by deliberately confusing their students over the difference between evidence and belief.

It is appalling that state and federal governments not only permit but also heavily fund schools that teach so-called intelligent design and creationism in science classes in some Christian, Muslim and Jewish schools.

The idea that some people’s religious views about the role of a divine being in creating the universe should be allowed to undermine the teaching of the basis of the scientific method in Australian schools is one that takes society down a dangerous path. When scientific truths are hidden from students in this way, the capacity of tomorrow’s society to solve critical social and scientific problems is undermined.

Every organised group within society is at least tempted at some stage or other to flex their political muscles and seek to exert influence beyond their own range.

We should resist, but not vilify, religions when they seek to do this.

Contempt should be reserved for the politicians who so easily succumb to the pressure and grant privileged space to organised religion.

This conference comes at a crucial time for Australia and New Zealand. The political leverage of churches is growing, in part because they are getting better at the business of politics, and in part because of the growth of concentrations of fundamentalist groups in urban fringe marginal seats. The power of the secular community is to be challenged in new ways over the next decade.

Part of a speech from the New Liberator (Sydney), Winter [October] 2016.

MP has ties to anti-gay African church

Adam Gartrell - Federal Politics

Turnbull government MP Stuart Robert has close ties to an African church that supports harsh anti-gay laws and is run by a preacher described as “one of the most homophobic people in the world”.

Mr Robert was a founding direc­tor of Watoto Australia, an offshoot of the Ugandan-based Pentecostal Watoto Church, and has called church leader Gary Skinner one of the “great influences” on his life.

Watoto is a popular force in Uganda, preaching to 24,000 people across 11 churches and helping chil­dren orphaned by war and AIDS. Mr Skinner’s wife, Marilyn, also advoc­ates for women’s rights.

The church is also behind the Watoto Choir, an acclaimed chil­dren’s choir that tours the world. It just finished a tour of Australia.

But the church has a darker side.

Gay and lesbian activists say Watoto and Mr Skinner are viru­lently anti-gay and have contributed to violent homophobia in Uganda. Mr Robert, who was also a member of Watoto’s International Board, has travelled to the Ugandan capital Kampala many times to meet Mr Skinner, who says homosexuality is “degrading” and an “inhuman sin” that brings disease and destroys families.

At least twice, Mr Robert charged taxpayers for the travel, with the bill totalling almost $20,000. On two other occasions, he declared travel to Africa on his register of interests paid for by Watoto.

In 2006, Mr Robert self-published a book about the church called Hope: The Watoto Journey. Mr Robert resigned his dir­ectorship only when he became a minis­ter in the Abbott government in 2013.

Mr Skinner’s church also advoc­ates the “reform” and “reintegration” into society of gay people. On its web site, Watoto Church says it “adheres to the biblical standard of sexuality”, which means “it is a gift from God to be enjoyed only within the confines of a monogamous, het­erosexual marriage relationship”.

It also says it is in favour of “pro-family legislation that reflects and preserves this biblical standard”.

This “pro-family legislation” has included Uganda’s notorious “kill the gays” bill.

Gay rights cam­paigners say Watoto and Mr Skin­ner supported the harsh anti-gay bill that drew widespread interna­tional condemnation, even in its original incarnation, when it in­cluded the death penalty.

The church asked congregants to sign a petition in support of the bill, which the United States has called “atro­cious” and compared to the anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germany and apartheid in South Africa.

The bill was eventually passed without the death penalty included, instead imposing a life sentence for homosexuality. The new version of the bill, which also imposes seven-year prison terms for “aiding and abetting” homosexuals, was annulled by the country’s constitu­tional court, but only on procedural grounds. Proponents are agitating to resurrect it.

One of Uganda’s top gay rights advocates, Frank Mugisha, la­belled Mr Skinner “one of the most homophobic people in the world”. But he says Mr Skinner’s charit­able work makes him popular and therefore influential.

The Nobel peace prize nominee says while Mr Skinner has not been a public proponent of anti-gay laws, his church has supported them strongly. He has also supported, endorsed and hosted anti-gay preachers from abroad who have come into Uganda to whip up homophobic sentiment.

“The church has supported anti-gay Christians like Stephen Langa, one of the key supporters of the anti-gay laws,” Dr Mugisha, a win­ner of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for his advocacy, said. “Skinner was also one of the people who invited Lou Engle to Africa.”

Mr Langa is a Watoto Church elder and one of the driving forces behind the anti-gay legislation.

He has referred to the LGBTI community as the “kingdom of Sa­tan”, believes there is a homosexu­al plot to take over the world, and has close ties to anti-gay US preachers.

He was the chief organ­iser of a now notorious March 2009 conference that gave a platform to three US evangelical preachers who claimed wealthy Westerners were trying to bribe Ugandan children into becoming gay. Dr Mugisha and others say this con­ference was a watershed moment that whipped up anti-gay hysteria. Just one month later, Ugandan MP David Bahati introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to rid the coun­try of “homos”.

One of the speakers at the con­ference was Scott Lively, who reportedly also sermonised at Watoto. He is the author of Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, which seeks to blame gays for the Holocaust.

Langa and Lively were sub­sequently named as co-conspirators in a lawsuit over an alleged plot to deprive Ugandan gays of their human rights, brought by Dr Mugisha’s Sexual Minorities in Uganda. The case is ongoing in the US courts.

A spokesman for Mr Robert said he was a director of Watoto Aus­tralia for almost a decade on an “unpaid and voluntary basis”. He said Mr Robert had visited Africa more than a dozen times to work in refugee camps and AIDS treat­ment centres, on orphan programs and with micro-economic training companies.

“He and his family have person­ally funded and built a number of homes for orphaned children and spent over a decade working for the betterment of orphaned chil­dren,” the spokesman said.

“Gary Skinner’s views are a mat­ter for him.”

The spokesman did not say whether Mr Robert agreed with Mr Skinner’s views.

Mr Robert is strongly against same-sex marriage, and has used parliamentary speeches to rail against “gay IVF” and proclaim that “homosexual relationships are far more unstable than heterosexu­al ones”. “Nothing should be done by any parliament to make it likely that more children will be raised by same-sex couples,” he said in 2008.

He has described Watoto as a “truly special place” and “a thing of beauty”.

Mr Skinner, who grew up in a missionary family in Zimbabwe, is a regular visitor to Australia. He has been a guest preacher at the Pentecostal Hillsong Church in Sydney.

Hillsong supports Watoto financially, donating $720,000 to Mr Skinner during a 2007 visit.

Watoto Australia raises more than $3 million a year for the church. Last year, the church raised $48 million worldwide.

Watoto Church and Watoto Aus­tralia were asked for comment.

From: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/turnbull-mp-stuart...

2016 Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby will be on Wednesday, April 13, at 18:00 at Parliament House, Spring Street, Melbourne.

The agenda for the meeting includes:

1. Attendance, Apologies, Minutes
1.1 Attendance
1.1 Apologies
1.3 Minutes of last AGM

2. Administrative Changes and Election of Office Bearers
2.1 New Act for Incorporated Associations.
2.2 Election of office bearers (President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, 2 Committee Members).

3. Guest Speaker, Maree Edwards, State Member for Bendigo West, on "The Politics of the Bendigo Mosque".

Wealth Abuse, Taxation and Religion

Brian Morris

GREED AND RELIGION

For three long years the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse heard tragic testimony from thousands of victims of abuse perpetrated by prestigious religious institutions. And there seems no end, whether to the depths of child exploitation, to inaction by churches for preventative solutions, or to delays in compensating their victims.

While child abuse has been the criminal underbelly of Christianity — most recently exposed — there is another epidemic on which all churches have remained silent, and equally miasmic with indifference.

Wealth abuse is a global phenomenon, evident long before globalisation. It’s become a crisis in every nation as the rich become even more obscenely rich, while a burgeoning underclass struggle for survival.

A miniscule 0.1 per cent of America’s most wealthy own almost as much as the bottom 90 per cent — this from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. It’s an exponential wealth gap that’s exploded in all nations since the rich/poor chasm of the Industrial Revolution, and widened further during the Great Depression.

And the churches say and do little other than tut-tut and hand-wring at periodic conventions, in obscure reports on social deprivation, or with 30-second news grabs to show that they “care”.

They know exactly that behind the illusion and thin veneer of widespread prosperity the non-rich are not coping.

True, the pursuit and hording of wealth is as old as time. But historically, societies that became top heavy with wealth, in the hands of too few, fell prey to rebellion. One of the most spectacular was the Fall of Rome, but France and Russia are two classic examples of popular revolution. It nearly happened in Britain in the depression when unemployment hit 30 per cent, and topping 70 per cent in parts of Wales and Northern England.

But poverty has always been the cornerstone for religion. The influence and domination by all churches flourishes primarily in impoverished societies, where education and social opportunity are minimal. World-wide, 90 per cent of Catholics are poor.

It’s illustrated, too, by one well-known quote from Christopher Hitchens about Mother Teresa, when he said: “Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God.” And it’s in this mind-set that retreat into supernatural belief seems to become the only option.

So where is the religious muscle-flexing to condemn this shameful wealth gap that exists? Where is the political influence and hard-hitting media campaigns the churches unleashed when calling for Religious Freedom, or their demands for exemptions to anti-discrimination laws to challenge gay marriage, or their frontal assaults on the Safe Schools program?

Instead, Christianity influences the creation of wealth and maintains its symbiotic rapport with governments and the social élite who perpetuate capital inequity. Indeed, it was Calvinism that eased biblical restrictions on avarice and usury, paving the way for the full development and exploitation of laissez-faire capitalism.

Now, while experiencing [sic: despite?] rapid congregational decline, the numerically small church hierarchies somehow retain a cultural and political dominance. They maintain the presence of being spiritually élitist and eschew all scientific evidence that undermines their biblical foundations. This itself breeds ignorance among their diminishing flock. And they continue to champion and personify Christianity’s privileged élite, and reinforce an archaic class structure through their penchant for pomp and ceremony.

Religion remains firmly anchored in its social orthodoxy (anti-gay, anti-voluntary euthanasia, et al.), it is staunchly conservative on political and economic policy, and it has an overall callous insensitivity. That is typified by an embedded “Mother Teresa” mind-set to poverty, and a Cardinal Pell-like view of child abuse.

Christianity’s coddled leadership continue to defy the march of progress. They are a privileged group of men with miniscule congregational support: just 8 per cent of the public go to church. That includes all religions!

Historically, this all adds up to Christianity being a major player in the environment of wealth escalation, and, by direct association, with social and economic inequality. No doubt some of their charities do good work, but the very essence of being a religious charity is to actively engage in the “advancement of religion”.

Government subsidies, initiated by John Howard, led to church domination of the welfare and employment sectors, as well as lucrative businesses in private education, private health and private aged care. In none of these is there any legal protection for their captive clientele to be shielded from predatory Christianity.

And while 37 per cent of charities are religious, the remaining 63 per cent are primarily secular, doing equally good work on a swathe of humanitarian fronts, but all without the need to tout supernatural beliefs.

But the churches have departed from the alleged teachings of Jesus — to give succour and comfort to the needy, without counting the cost. Throughout history they have indeed counted the staggering wealth pouring into their coffers. Despite all their unchristian denials, churches have immeasurable wealth in property, investments, businesses, gold, art work, precious gems and artefacts, and international currencies.

In 2014 “faith groups” collected a handsome $104 billion* income according to the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission. And these “religious charities” are not required to submit detailed financial reports, so we can assume this is a conservative figure.

Conversely, religious organisations are avoiding the full gamut of taxes: exemptions — all forms of income tax, including their businesses, GST, land taxes, council rates, payroll taxes, car registrations; the list is endless. The analysis was completed by the Secular Party of Australia in 2008, and it can be safely assumed that over the past seven years that figure has not diminished in any way.

WHERE IS ALL THIS GOING?

In 2014 Australia’s GDP was US$1.45 trillion* — that’s United States dollars — and was ranked 12th on the IMF table of 189 countries. And despite the global financial crisis, and recent falls in commodity prices, Australia remains one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

And, like the churches (over many centuries), Australia’s wealth has expanded exponentially, but primarily in the hands of society’s most privileged and already wealthy.

In 2015, the nation’s top 20 per cent of wealth-holders increased by 28 per cent while, by comparison, the wealth of the bottom 20 per cent increased by just 3 per cent. A person in the top 20 per cent wealth-group has a staggering 70 times as much wealth as a person in the bottom 20 per cent, and the wealthiest 10 per cent own 45 per cent of all wealth. These figures come from ACOSS in their 2015 report, Inequality in Australia.

So, where is the clamour from Christian churches to actually do something about the ever increasing wealth-gap problem? Where is the voice from those religious bodies that endorsed the ACOSS report: the Salvation Army, Anglicare Australia and St Vincent de Paul?

When will the Church hierarchies ever do more than offer muted and patronising double-speak? When will they openly challenge the federal government to act — through their frequent national media campaigns? Will they ever use all their media connections to influence real change — the very same networks they use to shout down gay marriage, and a raft of contemporary social policy that offends their Christian beliefs?

Where is the church voice calling loudly, not for cuts to education, health and welfare, but for increases in revenue through equitable taxation of the wealthy in negative gearing, on superannuation rorts for the rich, family trusts, and a swathe of tax loopholes for corporations and their mega-rich patrons?

These are all multi-billion revenue streams which could build infrastructure and create “real” jobs, better opportunities for the chronically under­employed, and genuine training for the army of unemployed youth who need tangible pathways to participate fully in this twelfth richest country in the world.

Casual jobs now account for 35 per cent of the work force, the largest on record, and the majority provide only sufficient hours to allow workers a meagre existence. The truer unemployment rate is close to 13 per cent, including casual workers whose hours fall short of the minimum wage. A true figure is much higher still, when including all unemployed people who have dropped out of the CES system entirely.

CONCLUSION

To reverse this crisis of casualisation, and the economic insecurity of “employment by yearly contract”, a government with integrity would open new revenue streams. They are the traditional “sacred cows” of the wealthy, mentioned above. Without these untapped revenue sources there will be no stabilising of today’s wealth inequity, no national infrastructure funds to curb Australia’s slide into social and economic decline.

And a Death Tax would be an ideal addition to any plan to finally have the mega-rich make a contribution! It was even suggested last year by Malcolm Turnbull — to reintroduce a scheme abandoned in 1978. It’s been long overdue, given that Australia’s wealthiest fat cats are the meanest in the world when it comes to philanthropy, according to the Arton Capital Philanthropy Report of 2015. Or just pay tax! Put simply, tax minimisation is not only antisocial behaviour, it’s a contrived rort on the low paid who pay their full share.

Religion’s annual $31 billion in tax exemptions is another ancient contrivance that’s long overdue for a major overhaul — to have churches finally make a contribution to the nation’s coffers. Or do they just stand and watch as governments slash more from hospitals and public schools?

While Christianity originally preached the ideal, “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”, the churches continue to fight tooth and nail to retain their billion dollar free ride at the taxpayer’s expense. It’s unconscionable, in this wholly secular society!

Malcolm Turnbull’s government faced a budget crisis in May 2016. Wracked by indecision, they have swept “off the table” a full gamut of taxation measures to offset expenditure and the alarming fall in commodities prices. But all the easy options have been discarded. And it’s incontrovertible that a “Catholic” Turnbull would simply run screaming from the remotest mention of “death and religion” paying its fair share of tax to his government.

From: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=18087&page=0

Secularists Reject Religious Register

The Victorian Secular Lobby, Inc., rejects the proposal that MPs should be required to register their religious beliefs, describing the proposal as "simultaneously risible and obnoxious".

The apparently single-person organisation, 'Plain Reason', made the proposal in February and received some media coverage.

President of the Victorian Secular Lobby, Lev Lafayette, wanted to emphasise that a secular approach supports the freedom of and from religion, and the separation of religious authorities from public policy.

"The very idea that the state should keep a register of MPs religious affiliations goes against the very principle of keeping religion out of politics", he said.

"Secularism is about knowledge which is founded and testable in our shared world. It is not an argument against religious beliefs, but an argument independent of it."

The Lobby has religious members, including members on their committee of management.

However organisations such as the Australian Christian Lobby were also criticised for their approach.

"Overwhelmingly, members of the public believe social policy should come from evidence-based research and secular ethics, rather than religious dogma. It is a conceit of organisations such as the Australian Christian Lobby who think they speak for all Christians", Mr. Lafayette added.

For further information contact Nick Langdon, Secretary of the Victorian Secular Lobby, Inc., public@victoriansecular.org

The Victorian Secular Lobby is incorporated in the State of Victoria, Number A00594400A

Gay laws open door for child marriage: Lib

Recognising overseas gay marriages could force Australia to recognise child marriages too, a Liberal senator has warned parliament.

"If we start making changes against our sovereign law in the interests of one group then why not the other groups," David Fawcett said on Thursday.

"If we’re going to be consistent… then we need to start recognising things like child marriage, which I think clearly Australians would reject."

The Senate is debating a private bill, proposed by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, that seeks to recognise overseas same-sex marriages.

Senator Fawcett said doing so would create a loophole to Australian law, encouraging gay couples to go overseas and get married, despite it not being legal in Australia.

Greens senator Robert Simms said the tragic case of a British man who was refused next-of-kin status when his husband died in Adelaide highlighted the need for national laws to recognise overseas gay marriages.

The bill would end cruel and draconian inconsistencies that exist between states, after the gay man’s death certificate read ‘never married’, despite him dying on his honeymoon.

But if Marco Bulmer-Rizzi’s husband David died 400km east in NSW, the marriage would have been acknowledged.

"He had to go through the pain of reading `never married’ on his husband’s death certificate," Senator Simms said.

From: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/federal-greens-renew-pu...
"The cruel reality of these laws have been exposed by this tragic incident."

Several states including NSW and Victoria recognise overseas same-sex marriages, but others such as Western Australia and South Australia don’t.

Senator Simms said recognition should not stop at state borders.

Senator Fawcett said the bill would not address the root cause of the problem faced by Mr Bulmer-Rizzi.

"The remedy for the kind of problems that he faced… is actually found in state legislation."

Outspoken Liberal senator Cory Bernardi said the bill could also force Australia to recognise polygamy.

"You could go to Saudi Arabia or some of the Islamic countries where it’s legal for a man to marry four wives.

"Should we be expected to recognise that in this country?" he said.

Senator Bernardi said the bill would encourage people to subvert Australian law, forcing recognition of foreign laws that were inconsistent with its own.

He accused gay marriage advocates of "sneakily" trying to further their cause without going through the proper consultation process with the Australian people.

"You’re jumping the gun – you’re trying to force something upon this country that it hasn’t accepted as yet."

Nationals senator Matthew Canavan said the Greens had no respect for other people’s viewpoints, attempting a backdoor change to the definition of marriage.

If Australia does vote to change the definition, he will respect the views of voters, he said.

But he won’t support any change that undermines the right for people to carry out their religious beliefs.

Senator Canavan believes changing the definition will remove colour and imagination from life because there will no longer be a word to describe the union of a man and a woman coming together to have children.

"We should have a particular institution and a particular word to describe the creation of the next generation."

Teen spoke of packing ’roo with explosives in attack, court told

A MELBOURNE teenager allegedly discussed packing a kangaroo with explosives, painting it with an Islamic State symbol and setting it loose on police officers.

Sevdet Ramadan Besim, 19, of Hallam, in Melbourne’s south east, is accused of plotting an Anzac Day terror attack in Melbourne that would have allegedly included a beheading.

He was committed to trial in the Supreme Court on Thursday after pleading not guilty to four charges.

They included conducting internet searches of Anzac Day in Melbourne and Dandenong, engaging in communications and creating an electronic memo on his phone — all in preparation for a terrorist act.

Besim initially faced five charges, but prosecutor Andrew Doyle withdrew one when Besim appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Besim is accused of planning to run over, then behead, a police officer.

He allegedly wrote he was “ready to fight these dogs on there (sic) doorstep” in online communications with a person overseas, according to court documents.

“I’d love to take out some cops,” Besim is alleged to have written.

“I was gonna meet with them then take some heads ahaha.”

Police say the pair also talked generally about Australian wildlife, suggesting a kangaroo could be packed with explosives, painted with “the IS symbol” and set loose on officers.

While police did not go into details of the symbol, the image mostly linked to Islamic State is the Black Banner or Standard.

Besim has been in custody since April 18 last year when 200 heavily armed officers swooped on the city’s south east, arresting five teens and seizing knives and swords.

Police said he was motivated by an extremist ideology and had expressed support for proscribed terrorist organisations, particularly IS, which adopt a radical interpretation of Islam.

The dropped charge was one count of conspiring to do an act in preparation for or planning a terror act, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Besim is due to face a directions hearing next week.

From: http://www.news.com.au/national/victoria/sevdet-besim-accused-of-plannin...

Melton anti-Islam rally: Man charged over weapon found ahead of Melbourne protest

Melton anti-Islam rally: Man charged over weapon found ahead of Melbourne protest

Updated 20 Nov 2015, 7:43pm
Police stand in a line in Bendigo at protests
Photo: There was a large police presence at counter rallies in Bendigo on August 29. (ABC News: Stephanie Anderson)
Map: Braybrook 3019

Police acting on intelligence that some protesters due to attend an anti-Islam rally and a counter protest in Melbourne's west were planning violence have charged a man after a weapon was found at his home.

The 31-year-old was detained after officers searched the property in Braybrook, before facing an out-of-sessions court hearing on Thursday evening, charged with possessing a prohibited weapon and a drug-related offence.

He did not apply for bail and has been remanded in custody.

Reclaim Australia and No Room for Racism are both planning to hold rallies in Melton on Sunday.

Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane would not say which viewpoint the charged man held.

"I don't try to differentiate between sides - unfortunately we've got two extremes in Victoria that are prepared to use violence to see their point of view take its place," he said.

We understand in the background they're trying to out-manoeuvre each other, so we're just trying to keep up.
Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane

"The intelligence we had was with regards to some weapons that may have been taken or not taken, so we've executed a warrant and we've received some weapons."

Assistant Commissioner Leane said police were struggling to work out exactly where the groups would rally on Sunday.

"The left side is refusing to cooperate with police and have a conversation with us and the right is giving us as much conversation as they can," he said.

"But we understand in the background they're trying to out-manoeuvre each other, so we're just trying to keep up."

He said previous protests had shown the need for a strong police presence.

"I think the demonstration in the city and the two rallies in Bendigo show us - both police and the community - that the extreme views on either side are prepared to use violence to get their word heard the most."

He urged both sides to rally peacefully.

"Paris has had a significant impact on the Western world ... from a Victoria Police perspective, we understand that this will draw out great emotion right across the community in Victoria and Australia," he said.

"What I ask is people think through what that emotion might be and reflecting that the emotion of the weekend through violence is not going to achieve anything in the Australian perspective, it won't achieve anything in Melton, and it certainly won't bring any comfort for the victims in Paris."

From: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-19/man-arrested-following-plans-for-v...

Bishop labels massacre in Paris “blasphemy”

Carolyn Webb

A Catholic bishop has urged 1200 people at a Melbourne mass for vic­tims of the Paris massacre to reject hatred and anti-refugee sentiment and embrace peace and love.

Melbourne Auxiliary Bishop Terence Curtin asked the congrega­tion at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Wednesday [18 November], including French hon­orary consul Myriam Boisbouvier-Wylie, to pray “for all those suffering in France”.

The booklet for the bilingual ser­vice adopted the social media logo of the Eiffel Tower as a peace sign, with the French flag as a backdrop.

It stated it was a “Mass in memory of those who died and suffered in the Paris tragedy” of 13 November 2015. A note inside added: “we also pray for those who died recently in terror attacks in Beirut and Egypt”.

In his homily, Bishop Curtin said those who had slaughtered in Paris, and those who sent them, had claimed to do so in God’s name. But he said “this is not religion but its opposite. As Pope Francis pointed out, it’s blasphemy.”

From: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/paris-massacre-the-work-of-evil-not-go...

First Islamic party plans Senate push

Heath Aston - Political Correspondent

Australia’s first Islamic faith polit­ical party intends to field Senate candidates in all states and territ­ories at next year’s federal election and also contest upper house seats at state level.

The party, to be announced on Tuesday [today], will be known as the Aus­tralian Muslim Party, Fairfax Media can reveal. Founder Diaa Mohamed said there had never been a more critical time for the Muslim community to have a polit­ical voice in Australia.

As a devout Muslim, he said he would never condone the killing of innocents as seen on the streets of Paris and Beirut in the past week, but the Australian Muslim Party would also never support military action in a Muslim country in re­sponse to terrorism.

“I don’t think Islam is at war with the West, but Islamic coun­tries have been at war for many, many years,” he said. “Let’s look at how well [military intervention] has worked in the past. We invaded Afghanistan. That didn’t work out so well. We invaded Iraq and we’re in the mess we’re in there.

“Would I support something that has never worked in the past? No. It’s just never worked. Not for the Soviets in Afghanistan, not for the United States in Iraq. There’s a solution and it’s not invading some­one else’s land.”

He said the killings in Paris were “inexcusable” but drew a direct link between past foreign invasions in the Middle East and the spread of radical Islam, most recently by the Islamic State.

“From these guys’ perspective, they have had foreign fighters in their lands, their sons and daugh­ters being killed. It could send a few people to change their views and use religion as a justification,” he said.

Mr Mohamed, a 34-year-old businessman from western Sydney, founded a group called MyPeace aimed at improving rela­tions between Muslims and main­stream Australia.

He was also behind controver­sial billboards erected in Sydney in 2011 that claimed “Jesus: a prophet of Islam”.

An unmarried father of a nine-year-old son, he formerly wor­shipped at Lakemba Mosque but now attends the Parramatta Mosque.

He said the establishment of the party was in part a reaction to the six anti-Islamic parties intending to stand for election, including the Australian Liberty Alliance, launched recently by controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders, Rise Up and Nick Folkes’s Party for Freedom.

About 20 Party for Freedom supporters protested outside the Parramatta Mosque after the murder of New South Wales Police accountant Curtis Cheng last month.

Mr Mohamed said he had never met Mr Cheng’s 15-year-old killer, Farhad Jabar Khalil Mohammad, and had never heard any radical sentiment expressed at the mosque, which he described as a small “in and out” mosque used by professionals working in Parra­matta.

He has taken office space in Parramatta, where he and 20 vo­lunteers will seek to gain the 500 members needed to register a political party in time for the next federal election. He said an Austra­lian Muslim Party web site would go live on Tuesday [today].

Mr Mohamed said he had con­sulted imams and Christian bish­ops and priests on his intentions to form the party, saying non-Muslims were welcome as mem­bers. But he said senior Islamic clerics had advised him to “tread cautiously” in seeking representa­tion for Muslims in politics.

Dr Jamal Rili, a respected voice on moderate Islam, said he would encourage young Muslims to get involved with established parties such as Labor, the Liberals and the Greens but understood the com­pulsion to directly organise on be­half of Muslims.

Labor’s Ed Husic was the first Muslim MP elected to the federal Parliament, in 2010.

Mr Mohamed said some Muslim commentators used regularly by the media showed too much “ap­peasement” of the mainstream community.

From: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australian-muslim-...

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