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This is Not About the Postal Vote

Stephen McAlpine writes an excellent piece in Ethos (August 18) stating that the postal vote result is not half the issue that religious freedom is. There are so many good paragraphs it was difficult providing an abridged version.

“A lot’s going to be said about that postal vote before it is all done and dusted. This is not about that postal vote. This is about what the landscape may look like afterwards as far as religious expression in the public square is concerned down the line.

“He [Tim Wilson] personally told me, prior to his election as an MP, that the safeguards for dissenting religious voices in the corporate world, and for faith organisations in general, are woefully inadequate in Australia. And the likely introduction of same sex marriage will test this inadequacy.

“And to be frank, it is the cultural ideology of the new world. I believe that same sex marriage is inevitable because of what most people value about themselves whether they agree with SSM or not: That they have the freedom to do what they wish, to find happiness and satisfaction how they wish, especially in the area of sex. That’s the cultural frame of this new world.

“As Dale Kuehne argues in Sex and the iWorld, any politician who pushes against this new world idea of deep autonomy, especially in the area of sex, will die a horrible political death.

“But back to religious freedom. Regardless of what your view is about same sex marriage, the moment it is enacted – or at least after the confetti has settled and the party is over – is the moment we see if our religious freedom laws are strong enough to ensure that dissenting voices can continue to dissent publicly without fear of retribution on the other side of the marriage decision.

“Part of this is to do with language. Marriage equality, as it is being called, is being termed a ‘human right’. But as Kelly notes marriage is not a human right, and never has been viewed as such across the globe.

“But religious freedom and freedom of conscience are viewed as basic human rights – at least in theory – across the globe. And they are so on the basis that for a power to be able to tell you, coerce you, in terms of what you can and cannot think strikes at the very core of human autonomy.”

“However this has now changed. Our sexual selves are now viewed as the core of who we are as humans. And since this is now assumed, marriage and all that it offers and demands, finds itself in the territory of rights. And not just in the territory, but as the new foundation of human rights…

“Religious freedoms will have to give way to sexual freedom because all of the conditions in our culture to preference sexual freedom as the basic human right are in place. Make no mistake about that. You can huff and puff all you like, but if you say otherwise in most places you will be viewed as one views an exotic animal in the zoo.

“I believe that is what makes this issue so vexing for Australian Christians who, while holding to the orthodox view of marriage, are not too vexed by the probable introduction of same sex marriage.
They’re wondering if it is possible to allow the same relational status in a secular culture that they enjoy, while at the same time safeguarding their right to public dissent in word and corporate dissent in practice (religious schools, charities etc). None of the signs from elsewhere give them any confidence.

“For many Christians it is an in-principle decision that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman. Yet they realise … that we no longer expect others to see it that way, and that we will have to live with things we don’t agree with. That’s no biggie as far as I am concerned.

“Indeed there is a coherence to the Christian world view that can live with tension, and increasingly that coherence will be attractive to a world wearying itself over an elusive pursuit of idealised identity.

“I can live with the tension of same sex marriage being enacted because I am under no illusion that everyone must think as I do, nor act as I do. Christianity flourished in such conditions in the past, it can do so again. Same sex marriage won’t be the solution for many who hope it will be. But neither will it be the problem that others fear it will be.

“But no such coherence exists in the mish-mash of late modern secularism, bereft as it is of any true centre. It cannot agree to disagree and will, without adequate checks and balances, force people to a narrow view of secularism that brooks no dissent. Late modern secularism portrays itself as confident, when all the signs point to the fact that it is brittle.

“This is why, once same sex marriage becomes law, the truly hard work of creating a society capable of living with deep differences begins. This is why we need to get our religious freedom laws sorted out.”

Click here for the full article.

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