Christian knaves and government fools


If I had a euro for each time I am left gasping at the naivety and sheer stupidity of gov-ernment officials when it comes to religion, it would take a team of weightlifters to bundle my outsized piggy bank into a security van.

Take, for example, a row that has broken out in Australia over a Christian outfit which receives taxpayers' cash by the bucket-load to provide religious instruction to children via an extensive schools chaplaincy programme.

Secularism in Australia: Christians are not being attacked, just their special expectations.

The issue of secularism does not seem to be very well understood. This is particularly obvious in current discussions about Special Religious Education (SRI), religious chaplains, and religious lobbying of the government. A common misunderstanding is that secularism is the quashing of spiritual and religious beliefs in favour of an atheistic, unsympathetic government; that religious organisations will be shut down and that their ideas will be shunned and no longer welcome in public debate.

For Christ's sake, think

VICTORIANS have nothing to fear from our Charter of Rights, despite what the Australian Christian Lobby would have you believe. They are wrong to oppose the expansion of the charter.

The charter was introduced by the previous Labor Government four years ago and is now under review by the Baillieu Government.

Same-Sex Marriage Leads to Polygamy, Incest

On June 11 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, has argued that allowing same-sex marriage will lead to an acceptance of polygamy and incest. Numerous letters in response have described Rev. Jensen's comments offensive and absurd. (Collection below)

Senator Marshall concerned school chaplain service "scary".

A LABOR Senator has expressed concern about the controversial school chaplaincy program, saying the idea of a chaplain sharing conservative views with a child struggling with their sexuality “scares” him.

Senate education committee chairman Gavin Marshall told an estimates hearing yesterday [2 June] that chaplain service provider Scripture Union held a “fairly harsh view” on homosexuality, which was “‘homosexuals will burn in hell’”.

Secularism and the Equal Opportunity Amendment

At the end of last year, the Baillieu government was unexpectedly elected. One of the most disturbing proposals to come forth from this new governments has been proposed alterations to the Equal Opportunity Act. For the Victorian Secular Lobby the most significant changes are exemptions to the Act for religious bodies and schools.

“No film” call by abortion clinics


ABORTION clinics are calling for the state government to crack down on protesters who have started filming women as they enter and leave clinics.

Doctors who work at the East Melbourne and Albury-Wodonga clinics said protesters had been filming and photo-graphing patients in recent months while others continued their attempts to talk women out of terminations.

The protesters were also now taking babies and toddlers with them to protests.

A nasty little idea that seeks to enshrine prejudice


A nasty little idea that seeks to enshrine prejudice

THE changes to the equal opportunity laws are really about giving so-called faith-based organisations privileges over the rest of us, but not just to reject or sack workers whose “lifestyle” they disapprove of (“Minister’s error sinks equality law change”, The Age, 27 May). It also allows them to deny services to those people.

Curriculum head warns against axing religion


THE man in charge of Australia’s national curriculum insists there is no problem with the way reli-gious instruction is taught in Vic-toria, and warns that any moves to axe religion classes could drive parents out of the public system and into private schools.

Professor Barry McGaw, the chairman of the national curriculum authority, told The Sunday Age: “I don’t see anything wrong with a special religious instruction that operates precisely on [the current] grounds. If we deny any place to religion in public education and wish to make it entirely [secular], we are actually basing it on a particular world view.

“And the problem with that is that religious parents might opt out of the public school system, and that would not be a good thing.”

Religious instruction classes, 96 per cent of which are Christian, involve volunteers teaching the doctrine of particular religions for 30 minutes per week in state primary schools. The program has become controversial, particularly since Evonne Paddison, the leader of Christian group Access Ministries, was reported as saying it provided a “God-given open door to children . . . to go and make disciples”.

Many who oppose the lessons, including academic Anna Halafoff of the Religion, Ethics and Education Network Australia, propose an alternative - introducing a new academic subject to teach children about the world’s religions as part of the curriculum.

The education union’s Victorian president, Mary Bluett, agrees, saying it would be appropriate to include a subject on religion on the soon-to-be-introduced national curriculum.

Professor McGaw, however, said there were no plans to develop a separate subject on religion.

Instead, he said, he was comfortable with the current model, known as SRI, or Special Religious Instruction.

However, another curriculum expert, Tony Taylor from Monash University, who examined the Access Ministries curriculum, concluded it was “primitively anti-educational . . . a crude form of missionary
indoctrination that went out of style in the 1950s”.

“Mainstream Christian schools would be mortified if this kind of ludicrous, inappropriate and exasperating garbage was found in their classrooms,” he said.

Access Ministries has defended its course partly on the basis that it has received no complaints about volunteer instructors trying to convert people.

Making religious education an academic subject on the national curriculum would require the state or federal ministers for education banding together and asking for it.

Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon said that “there hasn’t been any push from Victoria or the other states” for such a subject.

Mr Dixon said he supported SRI, and if religion were to be taught as anacademic subject he would prefer it to be “as part of culture and part of language”.

Ms Halafoff said this reflected the attitude at the national level, and the Religion, Ethics and Edu-cation Network Australia was meeting with an adviser for federal minister Peter Garrett in July.

“Because the national curriculum is on the verge of being introduced, we really need to have this discussion,” she said.

From: page 22.

Hockey, Shorten join forces in royal commission snub

FEDERAL and state governments have poured cold water on holding a royal commission into child abuse, despite growing calls for one at a state inquiry.

Labor and Liberal frontbenchers Bill Shorten and Joe Hockey questioned the potential effectiveness of a national investigation into child abuse on Friday.

Mr Shorten, the Employment Minister, said organisations should be required to report abuse to police and those involved in covering it up should be exposed, but told 3AW he was ''not convinced that having a royal commission is going to fix the faults''.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said it would be ''ridiculous'' to have a royal commission into the Catholic Church, and that sexual abuse was much broader than the church.

Mr Hockey, a Catholic, said a royal commission would further ''traumatise'' victims. ''I have friends who have been victims … What they want to see is for it to stop and for the wounds to heal,'' he said.

Premier Ted Baillieu said: ''We believe the parliamentary inquiry has already demonstrated its value.''

Their comments came before New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell announced that his state would launch an inquiry into a senior police investigator's allegations of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy in the Hunter region.

Most witnesses who have testified at Victoria's inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations - child abuse researchers Monash University professor Chris Goddard and University of Sydney law professor Patrick Parkinson are among those who gave evidence - have endorsed calls for a royal commission. The inquiry was called in April after years of campaigning by victims' advocates.

The inquiry's chairwoman, Georgie Crozier, has said the six-member committee enjoys all the powers of a royal commission, but victims groups have long criticised it as inadequately resourced to handle the widespread problem.

Broken Rites' Dr Wayne Chamley, who testified on Friday, said the victims' group had supported calls for a national commission for 16 years ''because this crosses borders, it doesn't stop at the Murray. You've got to bring and put under oath all the bishops and archbishops and former bishops and all the vicars-general and ask what was going on.''

The Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, said a judicial inquiry or royal commission would have dealt with the issue better than a parliamentary inquiry. ''There is a very strong need for victims to feel heard,'' he said

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