Former High Court Justice Dyson Heydon on Religious Freedom in Australia

Dyson Heydon is a former Justice of the Australian High Court (= Aussie version SCOTUS) and he recently delivered the Inaugural PM Glynn Lecture on Religion, Law and Public Life at the Australian Catholic University. His lecture is available online and it is MUST READ.

Here are some choice quotes:

Modern elites consider that what one does not condemn one must be taken to accept. Modern elites have failed to understand that that places them in a difficult position. Some little time ago a particular point of view was publicised with the words: “Burn churches, not gays”. The level of taste which is integral to this contribution can be gauged from the remembrance it summons up – surely inevitably and probably intentionally – of the fact that the last organisation in the West with any power to burn places of worship was the Nazi regime, and the fact that that regime moved very quickly from burning Jewish synagogues in November 1938 to burning those who attended those synagogues from 1942 onwards – in their millions.

More recently vandals daubed on the walls of a Baptist church the words “Crucify ‘No’ Voters”. The level of taste involved can be gauged from its deliberate and blasphemous allusion to a central element of Christian belief. This would not easily be seen by some elements in modern elites, who seem to waver between the contradictory contentions that Christ never existed, 5. or that Christ was never crucified, or that the Roman soldiers who attempted the crucifixion behaved with such incompetence that Christ merely fell unconscious and never actually died on the Cross. Does not the failure of modern elites to condemn these two examples of sub-human behaviour indicate an acceptance by the elites of their propriety and validity?

A related catchcry commonly now heard is “Why don’t religious people stop forcing their opinions on everyone else?” This call for what in Germany in the 1940s would have been called a compulsory inner emigration will be discussed later below. These phenomena highlight an aspect of modern elites – the relativism of their beliefs and their conduct. It is all right for one element of public opinion to call for the physical destruction of places of worship and the death of those who worship in them. That is treated as merely routine, apparently fit to pass without comment. But it is not seen as all right for those who worship to state publicly the beliefs they hold, and to argue, whether on narrowly religious, or ethical or utilitarian grounds for or against particular policy positions under general debate. It is all right for the elite to support a particular point of view, but intolerable for anyone else to oppose it. That is what modern elites call “tolerance”.

Members of modern elites are moving away from mere indifference. They are embracing a fanatical anti-clericalism. Some want to destroy faith itself. We know there have been recent persecutions in the Middle East of a kind and on a scale that have not been seen for centuries – rarely under the Ottomans until their treatment of the Armenians, not much under the states which succeeded the Ottoman Empire. Now, however, mass murders and threats of mass murder are disrupting and scattering communities who have lived peacefully in the Middle East for a very long time in peace and harmony with their neighbours. We must hope that never happens in Australia. But something which, though less severe, is equally uncompromising is emerging in Australia. Among the elites is developing a hostility to religion which has not been seen in the West since the worst excesses of the French Revolution, or at least the vengeful Premierships of Émile Combes in the early 20th century.

The modern elites are tyrants of tolerance. They say: “You must listen to what I am going to say. Then you must either praise my virtue or shut up. Because if you try to say you disagree and why, you deserve to be, and you will be, hounded out of all decent society.” Thus the tyrants of tolerance pay lip-service, but only lip-service, to freedom of religion as a fundamental human right.

The Girondin leader Vergniaud said that the French Revolution, like Saturn, was devouring its own children. Like other Girondin leaders and many other revolutionary leaders from Danton and Robespierre down, he died under the guillotine. In Australia we see the reverse. The children of the Christian revolution, after denying that it was their father, are devouring the revolution.

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