Australian Christians told to butt out of matters of state

Australian Christians told to butt out of matters of state May 17, 2017

Australia can’t bring itself to legalise same-sex marriage because of interference from Christian prodnoses.
That’s the view of Penny Wong, above, the Labor opposition leader in the Senate, who said in her Frank Walker Memorial Lecture in Sydney today that marriage equality:

Languishes in the too hard basket because of the intransigence of those who see it as their right to impose their personal views on the community as a whole.

Wong’s speech made the argument that a major problem in Australia’s contentious same-sex marriage debate is:

The application of religious belief to the framing of law in a secular society. The law slowly evolved to regard marriage as a contract rather than a sacrament and recognised that the marriage contract had particular reference to children and property.
But it remains the case that religious attitudes to marriage continue to impact on much of the political debate that has delayed the recognition of the marriage equality rights of the gay and lesbian community.

Wong described Australia’s secular society as a “great protection” against extremism, and stressed the importance of separating church and state.

Religion-based moral codes continue to limit the freedoms and the rights of those who, in the view of religious groups, do not ‘conform’ to their views. In advocating, and indeed proselytising, their own views, they too often restrict and constrain the rights of others.
Why, one might ask, should gay people be expected to show ‘gratitude’ that their sexual relationships have been decriminalised?
And why, one might also ask, should the gay and lesbian community be merely ‘tolerated’ when the heterosexual community takes for granted ‘acceptance’ and recognition of their sexual preference as ‘the norm’?

She also said religious liberty does not extend to the law enforcing a particular religion’s view on marriage.

Religious freedom means being free to worship and to follow your faith without suffering persecution or discrimination for your beliefs, It does not mean imposing your beliefs on everyone else.
And it most emphatically does not mean deploying the power of the state to enforce one set of religious beliefs.

Wong said she is a person of faith and does not believe a secular society is anti-religion, but rather:

Characterised by the personal freedoms of its members to hold God in whatever regard they wish.

Wong also rejected the argument that marriage is chiefly about procreation and should therefore be restricted to heterosexual couples.

I’m pretty confident that the description of marriages as loveless relationships with the pure aim of procreating would not resonate with the vast majority of Australians.

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  • sailor1031

    “The law slowly evolved to regard marriage as a contract rather than a sacrament…”. That’s bassackwards.
    As long as there has been property, marriage has been a property-contract. In some societies it became about emotional attachment too; in many it did not and has not. In some religions it became a “sacrament” the significance of which varies from religion to religion and from sect to sect within those religions.
    Anyone who has been through divorce knows that marriage is about property. The judge doesn’t ask about relationship; only about the property settlement and disposition of the children and other goods.

  • 1859

    Regardless of what is the functionality marriage, Ms Wong’s is cutting clearly through the pernicious influence of religion upon politics. As a society becomes more mature, open-minded and enlightened, this question of religion’s role will become more and more contentious. And you have to ask Why? Clearly because the religious lobby will lose its historical power and influence. I find it hypocritical, to say the least, that the religious lobby can scream discrimination, when they want to practice the same discriminatory tactics against the LGBT community. They want the freedom to follow their religion but at the same time to use their religion to curtail the freedoms of others.. This is precisely why the laws of a state should not be written by those with a religious agenda. I hope the Aussies will take New Zealand’s wonderful example and allow couples to marry regardless of where they live on the gender spectrum.

  • Peterat

    Could use more of her!

  • RussellW

    sailor 1031
    I’d agree that Senator Wong has got it ‘bassackwards’, however you’ve over simplified the development of the institution.
    For most people, marriage in the Middle Ages for example, wasn’t a property contract, that was for the rich. When the majority of the population owned only what they could carry, marriage was by mutual consent and the Church didn’t take much interest.The phrase ‘common law marriage’ reflects that practice.
    Presumably the notion of a marriage sacrament appeared in Early Modern Times.
    Courts used to be interested in the relationship between partners in a failed marriage before the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce,which is relatively recent.

  • John

    Religions have always had a keen interest in property.
    Look at how much they ended up owning.
    Good old Henry Eighth changed much of that.
    Even so, the CofE is still the largest UK landowner.
    Time for another Great Dissolution of Churches?
    We need more Senator Wongs in this world!
    Well done her for an excellent speech.

  • barriejohn

    John: For people who are so “spiritually minded”, they seem to have an almost obscene interest in accumulating wealth!

  • John

    Good old NSS – keeping the clerics on their toes!
    Thanks for the hyperlink.

  • barriejohn

    John: Like others, I do enjoy looking around cathedrals and old churches from an historical and architectural perspective (some modern ones, too, like Liverpool and Coventry cathedrals), and like to see them put to good use when the Antiques Roadshow visits, but they need to find ways to survive just like stately homes have (and I’m always acutely aware of the grinding poverty of the working class who made THAT sort of lifestyle possible) instead of depending on constant government funding. The National Lottery carefully scrutinises every application for assistance; the government seems willing to hand over hundreds of millions to the CofE without question.

  • remigius

    ‘Presumably the notion of a marriage sacrament appeared in Early Modern Times.’
    RussellW, you’ve got it ‘bassackwards’ too. The marriage sacrament first appeared in the Middle Ages following the Council of Verona in 1184. It is ‘common-law marriage’ that is the modern invention – it didn’t exist until the 20th Century.
    In England, marriage from the 12th Century until 1753 took several forms. One with a form of a betrothal, called handfasting, followed by a church service. Others had just a church service. The Jews had their own ceremonies up until they were expelled in 1290. There was no cohabitation (or if there was they kept it very quiet!).
    The handfasting ceremony was similar to a modern wedding. The couple would exchange vows – ‘I remigius take thee Ermintrude to be my… – til death us depart etc’, followed by an exchange of rings, in the presence of witnesses. The handfasting was legally binding and recognised by the legal authorities of state and church.
    There were other forms of ‘marriage’ at the time, but these were referred to as clandestine marriages and were not recognised by the church or state – and the couple could face prosecution for fornication. Any offspring from such a union was deemed illegitimate. The Marriage Act 1753 was passed to prohibit such unions.
    Common-law marriage, as in cohabiting couples living as man and wife without having gone through a marriage ceremony, isn’t legally recognised.
    The term was first used in the 20th Century to refer to couples who were legally married in another common law jurisdiction (i.e USA) but sought to have their marriage recognised in the UK. It only later (erroneously) became synonymous with cohabitation.

  • Jenna

    bj John et al.
    My local village church stands on the top of the village and is now illuminated at night. It can be seen from afar. It is rather a fine looking building but I cannot get over the fact that it is, like all churches, a monument to the long centuries of exploitation,repression, suppression, beggary and stupefaction of the common man and a source of power, privilege, riches and presteige for the clergy, royalty and the elite. I cannot understand how seemingly intelligent people miss this point over and over again. Horrid places.

  • barriejohn

    Jenna: My grandmother, a highly intelligent and spirited woman, was a cook in service, and nearly died of pneumonia due to being housed in cold and damp quarters in the attic (as was the custom). Her first husband, invalided out of the Royal Navy with heart problems, died of a heart attack in 1909, when pushing a garden roller for the same employers while she was pregnant with their second child. I therefore have very mixed feelings when looking over our “stately homes” etc, but accept that that was a different age, with a different moral outlook, and that pulling them all down will do nothing to change what happened, and that admiring the craftsmanship of artisans of a previous age is in no way endorsing the social practices of the time. Does your strict view mean that you would destroy our heritage of castles, palaces, great houses and even Roman villas, because all are, in a sense, monuments to oppression, privilege and greed?

  • Jenna

    bj … what??? Strict view … what??? Are you all there or do you have a loose slate like the church roof? No leave them there as a reminder of injustices past and deceitful lies still broacast from the pulpit. You know …lest we forget about christian tyranny when you could be horribly executed for not beleiving or for being declared a witch. But the clerics do a fantastically specious job in convincing the gullible that churches are nice cuddly establishments from whence only wholesome goodness emanates and from whence evil is condemned. And the CoE will not repeal the Chancel Tax Law. I view mosques with even deeper contempt. And you don’t have a monopoly on being the descendant of the exploited working class. Sorry to say but you sound like a parody of the Monty Python’I was born in a paper bag’ sketch.

  • Jenna

    And I predict another know it all bj response will follow in a few minutes. Time now is 12.54pm and counting.

  • barriejohn

    And I predict another know it all bj response will follow in a few minutes. Time now is 12.54pm and counting.
    I would have continued this debate, as I did respect your point of view, but the response to that comment is “Fuck off”. Hope that’s not too “know-it-all” for you!

  • remigius

    Oh dear, oh dear. What is up with you two? Just last week you were having a lovely conversation about Matt Dillahunty, and now you are effing and blinding and calling each other names.
    I actually agree with both of you about such old buildings. I take my internet name from Remigius – initiator of the Domesday Book, and first bishop and builder of Lincoln Cathedral. I am in awe of such magnificent erections, despite knowing what they did with them. Sometimes it is necessary to separate form from function.
    barriejohn, telling Jenna to ‘fuck off’ was rude, and most unbecoming a person of whom many of us hold in high regard.
    Jenna, was it necessary to cast doubt on barriejohn’s sanity for merely asking a question? Wouldn’t a polite rebuttal have been more conducive?
    So come on guys, lets all be nice to one another. And if there are are disagreements let’s address them with civility, and without name-calling, rather than behaving like a couple of ignorant, insolent fucktards.

  • John the Drunkard

    Secular societies nurse a serpent in their breast. So long as religious opinion is kept free from open criticism, it will rear its ugly head to interfere with the very society that allowed it to flourish unchecked.
    The results, here in the U.S. are catastrophic. Religion, of its nature, demands special pleading and privilege. David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Trump voters, are to be expected.

  • barriejohn

    Remigius: I’m sick of being “targeted” over my comments, and am beginning to see why Broga buggered off. Maybe he was right!

  • remigius

    barriejohn. I don’t think Broga was right to leave. He obviously had his reasons – but we did lose a valued contributor. I’m sure we don’t want to lose another one, especially one who has given us so much insight and humour over many years.
    If I have ‘targeted’ you in any way, either recently or before, please know that it was only ever meant in good humour and never with any malice.

  • barriejohn

    Remigius: I’m used to your sense of humour by now! (And I do miss Broga’s intelligent comments.) I shall, however, continue to refer to my own experiences, being well aware that they may be classed as subjective and anecdotal, and that not everyone will be interested in them. I shall also continue to wonder why those who find them so distasteful continue, in some masochistic way, to read them all. Strange!

  • RussellW

    Much more complicated than I realised.

  • 1859

    @bj: I’ve re-read the above comment by jenna and I honestly don’t see why he/she got his/her knickers so twisted. Don’t be offended by those who see things through different spectacles even if the lenses turn the world upside down – debate is half the fun. I have always read your comments and personal anecdotes with interest and I certainly don’t consider you a ‘know-it-all’, nor do I think you yourself think this. So please don’t do a Broga on us!