COLUMN: Is faith really unfree?

INGRAINED: Faith is a solid part of our history, from local schools to charities. This shot by Col Shepard shows St Paul's Catholic School pupils marching along the main street of Camden in 1953 (courtesy Camden Historical Society).
INGRAINED: Faith is a solid part of our history, from local schools to charities. This shot by Col Shepard shows St Paul's Catholic School pupils marching along the main street of Camden in 1953 (courtesy Camden Historical Society).

IS freedom of faith under threat in Australia?

I mean... are local families being banned from attending Sunday church services? Are local clergy being ordered to marry gay people?

No. Not even close.

But ScoMo's "Religious Discrimination Bill" - which the PM says is needed to protect religious expression - is about to be unveiled.

I reckon it's more about feeding the culture wars than any genuine threat to our freedoms. That's why some are nicknaming it the "Israel Folau Bill".

If fear this is going to get messy because it would be really straightforward if jackbooted thugs were cancelling church services or our priests and imams were being forced to conduct same-sex marriages. That would be religion under threat.

But that's not happening, so it's all about perspective.

For example...

If we have a law that says it is wrong to sack Folau, who is good at his job, because (in his private life) his views on homosexuality differ from the values and ethos of his employer, Rugby Australia...

Shouldn't we also have a law that says it is wrong to sack a teacher who is good at their job because (in his/her private life) their views on homosexuality differ from values and ethos of his employer, the church?

No, no, no, according to the Australian Christian Lobby and church leaders who are demanding that right be included in a Religious Freedom Bill. The very thing that they're angry about, re Folau, is the very same thing they want to enshrine in law as right ... but for just them.

I hope the government is sincere when it says this Bill will act as a shield for caring people of faith, and not a sword for fundamentalists.

Because all religions have fundamentalists. In fact, they are responsible for much of the world's war, suffering and misery, from the Spanish Inquisition to ISIS.

At this point, let me say ...

Although most of us are disgusted by the endless sex abuse scandals in churches, we greatly admire the good deeds of so many people of faith in our excellent local parish schools, welfare services and charity works.

And those good deeds already have freedom.

Most of us also support freedom of faith. If you want to worship Christ, Allah, Buddha, Shiva, our maybe even Odin, Zeus, or Kim Kardashian, you should be free to do so. You should be just as free to have no religion.

And, we already have that freedom in Australia.

Folau-style culture wars aside, does anyone seriously think religious freedom is under dire threat? We have a Hillsong-going PM, even local council meetings say prayers, and Australia is signatory to many treaties covering freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

It doesn't mean people can use faith to say or do whatever they want, without consequences, because freedom only truly works with responsibility and tolerance.

Dunno about you but, for me, it all boils down to this:

To some people freedom of religion means: "That's against my religion so I can't do that." To others, however, freedom of religion means: "That's against my religion so YOU can't do that." The missionary/jihadist zeal.

From what I can see, people who fit into the first category already have complete and utter freedom to worship in peace in Australia. And long may they have it.

As for the second group ...

If it is them that ScoMo is seeking to empower with his Freedom of Religion Bill, I fear Australia might also eventually need a Freedom FROM Religion Bill.

This story COLUMN: Is faith really unfree? first appeared on Camden-Narellan Advertiser.