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Yes to SSM and to Religious Fre edom

Greg Sheridan, a fine journalistic voice from the conservative Catholic perspective explains in The Australian (Sept 6) why he’ll be voting ‘yes’ and also why religious freedom must be protected. Here are quite a few paragraphs:

“I will be voting Yes for straightforward reasons. The idea of marriage as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman has lost social consensus and is honoured more in the breach than the practice. Therefore it is not reas­on­able for the state to enforce this ideal.

“All gay couples who wish to be in a formal partnership already get full legal rights as part of civil unions. This argument does not make same-sex marriage superfluous but is a supporting argument for it. Once the law accepts that gay couples can adopt children, then the overwhelming priority in the whole question is the welfare of the children. All children benefit from their parents being as committed to each other, and to them, as possible. Legal marriage helps the children of gay couples as it does the children of heterosexual couples.

“However, I do take Christian teaching about marriage and the purpose of life very seriously. I believe Christianity to be true and to be overwhelmingly beneficial for society. I am not asking the Christian churches to change their doctrines. But they need to win adherence to their doctrine, in this case, through persuasion and example, not through the law.

“Nonetheless, I think the churches were right to join this debate and to do so relatively vigorously. They have every right to put their view of what constitutes the good life, and to argue to shape a consensus, and then of course they will abide by the law as it develops. However, the law should not oppress the churches or conscientious Christians either.

“The Christian churches argue, with all the weight of tradition and history, that it is of the essence of marriage that it involves a man and a woman. That is certainly a respectable view and it deserves to be heard with respect. It is not a view that any longer expresses a social consensus.

“Same-sex marriage is virtually certain to come about, either under this government or the next one, whether that is Liberal or Labor. So it is much better to do it now and guarantee religious freedom at the same time. The churches have done a real service by highlighting the religious freedom issues. Christians should compromise on same sex-marriage but fiercely defend religious freedoms to the very death. 

” The real challenge to religious freedom is, however, very grave and you can see it coming. The Catholic Archbishop of Hobart circulated a moderate and entirely respectful pamphlet, Don’t Mess with Marriage — and Tasmania’s anti-discrimination commission agreed to hear a complaint against him.

“The complaint was eventually withdrawn, which was a tactical decision. But the principle of the complaint is clear. Simply asserting traditional Christian doctrine is prima facie an offence in the eyes of the crypto-totalitarian, lawyer activist class that is increasingly dominant in the toxic age of identity politics.

“Overseas examples abound. An award-winning orthodox Jewish girls school in London has three times been refused the renewal of its state accreditation in part because it won’t teach about gender reassignment in the approved way. Schools should certainly be compelled to teach that all human beings deserve complete respect. Gay and transgender people should certainly be protected from hate speech. But there is a grave threat that merely teaching their traditional doctrines will expose religious institutions to increasing legal assault.

“This is not a trivial matter and Yes advocates who do not wish to harass and suppress religious freedom should address it honestly, as the whole debate should be carried out civilly. But the signs of our times, and the intemperate, moralistic fury that increasingly accompanies identity politics, militates heavily against this.

“On this matter of religious freedom, however, the churches should battle with every resource at their disposal.”

Click here for Sheridan’s full article.


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