The Australia I know is one where diverse opinions are expressed, ideas debated, frank discussions held and the right to disagree highly prized. This ability to articulate ideas freely is a defining hallmark of Western civilisation. This openness to new ideas has caused our societies to prosper, while others have stagnated. To this great tradition, Australia has added our larrikin spirit, our “she’ll be right” attitude and our “live and let live” philosophy, further protecting us from the bitter political acrimony that has plagued other nations.
Our respect for this freedom is even in our National Anthem, where we proudly sing that “we are young and free”. But this freedom is now under threat. Recently in Tasmania, an un-elected bureaucrat has announced the Catholic Church will be investigated for distributing a booklet in their school system outlining their views on marriage. This booklet, while articulating both religious and secular arguments to make its case, specifically calls for respect, sensitivity and love for all people.
Following its distribution, Australian Marriage Equality put out a call on its website for people who were offended to come forward and make complaints to the Anti-Discrimination Commission. In other words, they deliberately manufactured a situation to use the big stick of big government against a private religious institution for simply expressing its beliefs. The complainant was not a parent or child who received the booklet – but a Greens candidate who claims to have been insulted and offended it was ever produced. And now the Church has 21 days in which to respond to these charges.
Peter Smith: Bashing Bishops and Free Speech Too
Something is very wrong with our political system when a belief held for over 2000 years by a Christian church can now, all of a sudden, be judged ‘hateful’ by some faceless bureaucrat.
Our right to free speech comes with the responsibility to not incite violence or hatred. Arguing your view on the definition of marriage clearly passes this test. Yet we are now in a situation where the government is seeking to prevent a Church from teaching its own beliefs in its own schools.
The booklet itself lists several cases where bureaucrats have weaponised state power to prosecute and pressure religious institutions where the legal definition of marriage has changed. In Australia, this change has not yet even occurred – but this campaign of coercion has already commenced.
Make no mistake – we are rapidly progressing from mere political correctness to now mobilising the machinery of big government to silence those with different views. Ironically, the people who preach most about tolerance are turning out to be the most intolerant of all. Sadly it’s our journalists, artists and academics – supposedly the stewards of intellectual liberty – who have become the most active in trying to silence views they do not agree with.
This issue is not about religious freedom. It’s about freedom itself.
Editor’s note: the above is the transcript, lightly edited, of Perrottet’s speech before the NSW Parliament. Perrottet is the state’s Minister for Finance.