Until last week, Sky News’ Paul Murray supported the same-sex marriage campaign.
But the goodwill is fading. Speaking on his nightly program, Murray conceded what we have always forewarned: rainbow advocates are now asking for all protections for religious freedom to be “blown up.”
That is, the scant protections that already exist. Not new ones.
Murray agrees that there are people in the activist parts of the rainbow movement who will force churches to marry same-sex couples and deny Christian schools the right to hire staff who share their faith.
“All of this, we were promised, was not up for grabs. But after they’ve got the victory, now it’s time to keep rolling on.” - Paul Murray
Submissions to the Ruddock Review prove all this and more.
The yes campaign has advocated for the complete removal of religious freedoms from discrimination laws. Christian schools, churches and religious organisations would not be able to employ staff or enrol members or students that share their faith.
The Rationalist Society argues for the same, adding that the “overwhelming” yes vote in the postal survey confirms that such “prejudice” is no longer acceptable in modern Australia.
They are far from alone, and they are not the most extreme.
The National Secular Lobby goes the farthest, arguing that the indoctrination of children into religious faiths is a “tragic consequence” of religious freedom protections in international law. They claim, “It now represents ‘intellectual child abuse’ to allow children to be taught Biblical myths…”
The Northern Territory may be the first to fall, with the Attorney-General’s department currently undertaking a “modernisation” of their anti-discrimination laws which includes a complete review of all the religious freedoms they contain. Their discussion paper on the issue is ominous.
Christians are already getting in trouble with the law for living out the most basic tenets of their faith. These changes would make it worse.
Tasmania’s discrimination laws have seen Christian pastor Campbell Markham and Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous hauled before the Equal Opportunity Commission for publishing Christian teachings. Markham may soon be at the Tasmanian Supreme Court.
Flimsy protections for religious freedom have seen a Western Australian couple scrambling for justice since having their foster parenting application declined based on their Christian convictions.
Anti-Discrimination laws are currently being weaponised against faith-based schools in Victoria to force them to adopt radical transgender policies that contradict their beliefs.
Teaching the gospel, maintaining a Christian home, providing a Christian education to disciple the next generation. All these endeavours, and many more besides, are genuinely under threat.
We must fight to keep the doors open for the gospel, for the light of Christian witness, and for the voice of truth in our nation.
The Apostle Paul speaks of this type of religious freedom when he exhorts prayers for governments, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Tim 2:2). A godly life must be one in which Christ’s commands to do all these things are worked out, and to do so in peace means to do so under the protection of laws that reflect truth or grant religious freedom.
The purpose of such freedom is that all people may come to a knowledge of the truth. This, Paul says, is “good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour...” (1 Tim 2:3-4).
As I’ve said in a previous blog, Paul and Timothy had precious little opportunity to complement prayers with political activism. By contrast, we can do so through the great gift of democracy. We must not squander the opportunity (but nor must we cease in prayer!)
ACL will continue to take up the fight for religious freedom, to be a voice for values, and to keep the doors open for truth and Christian witness in our nation.
Now that same-sex marriage is law, it is clear this is the next battlefront.
We will appear at the Ruddock Review on Friday and you can read our submission here.
But let me put out this call: if religious freedoms continue to be taken from us, we must stand firm, come what may. The laws of this land do not necessarily reflect God’s truth or therefore what is right and wrong.
Perhaps we are moving into a time when the conclusion of the Apostles in Acts 5:29 is ever more relevant, “we must obey God rather than men.”
Let’s pray. Let’s act. Let’s be ready for anything.
Further reading: ACL's submission to the Ruddock Review.