Religious conservatism and religious freedom

Recently in Australia we have seen Christian conservatives (they claim support for those of other faiths but little evidence of this) argue that extension of anti discrimination laws to cover employment decisions is a threat to religious freedom. Worth remembering that this is for employment in organizations such as schools and welfare services very largely supported by public funds. It is not for core religious activities (on this overall question see Cass Sunstein). Yet Chritian conservatives appear entirely indifferent to real cases of the violation of religious freedom. Indeed many of them have been active in campaigns to attack the religious freedom of Australian Muslims by campaigning against the construction of Islamic schools. The Australian Christian Nation Association (which seems to be largely a Christian Democratic Party front but which has some participants from the far right of the NSW Liberals) declares that:

  1. Australia is a Christian Nation
  2. Islamic Militants are forming a political party to put Australia under Shari’a Koranic Law
  3. Our Australian Christian heritage is under attack. The key areas of our society which are being attacked include the removal of:
    • Christian Prayers in Parliament
    • Christian Carols by Candlelight, which praise Jesus Christ the Son of God
    • Christian Holy Holidays – Easter and Christmas
    • Christian Education in Government Schools
    • Government funding for Christian Schools
    • “Almighty God” from our Australian Constitution
    • The Holy Bible from our Courts
    • Christian Crown, Christian Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia

The Christian Democrats themselves declare their committment to:

to promote the true welfare of the people of Australia through all legislation being brought into conformity with the revealed will of God in the Holy Bible with a special emphasis on the MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION (2 Cor.5:18)

THE BIBLE: We believe the Holy Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, written Word of God and the final authority above all man’s laws and government.

c)  CIVIL GOVERNMENT: We believe civil government to be under the authority of God. (Romans 13:4)

Micheal Mann argues that governments which implement genocidal policies usually claim that they are protecting themselves against the plots of minorities to carry out a genocide on the majority: politics as pre emptive war, the Christian Democrats adopt this approach . The CDP itself is the inheritor of a long NSW tradition of evangelical Protestants in politics who were once fixated on Labor’s alleged subservience to the Catholic Church. Their more active political role came in the 1922 NSW state election (well described by Micheal Hogan). The CDP also draws on a broader hard right milieu in NSW well described in Ian Hancock’s official history of the NSW Liberal organisation. The CDP and its associated groups have received very little media attention compared to One Nation but they have been much more significant. The CDP’s anti-Muslim obsessions have been echoed by the mainstream right’. The Centre for Independent Studies, traditionally associated with the free-market right rather than social conservatism, hosted anti-Muslim campaigner Daniel Pipes who champions what he himself describes as ‘anti-Muslim’ initiatives such as the Swiss minaret ban. Pipes is an acceptable opinion writer in The Australian, a newspaper which regards itself as the voice of the Australian right and whose editorials often resemble Liberal pep talks. Pipes in The Australian argues that constraints on religious freedom in Muslim majority countries justify constraints on the religious freedom of Muslims in Europe. Overall this is a deeply concerning debate. Mainstream conservatives are now willing to explicitly describe their policies as ‘anti-islamic’, we would have to go back to pre-WW II anti-semitism to see a similar example. The basic assumptions of liberalism are fast being abandoned.

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