Australia has long been a land of religious freedom, but that freedom is fading fast. The major parties are unwilling to stand for faith, families and freedom, so it is now time for Australian believers to change their strategies, mindsets and expectations!
After five years of tireless work from Christian groups, including Australian Christians WA, the Religious Discrimination Bill has been shelved by the Coalition government. It almost certainly will not be passed before the upcoming election, making the future of religious freedom in Australia less certain than anytime in our nation’s history.
The capitulation of the Liberal-National government on religious freedom is an unnerving but timely reminder that who we vote for has resounding consequences. Countless Australian believers voted for a Christian Prime Minister, confident that he would follow through on election promises, and bring his MP’S alongside for this important Bill.
In truth, regardless of who leads the two major parties, both of them are now so thoroughly secular that it is clear we must change strategies. Pragmatism and popularity will not guarantee success for Christian values at the polling booth.
Australian Christians is unashamedly committed to faith, families and freedom. We recognise the distinctly Christian origins of these values in Australia’s past. We are determined not to let them fade away or be devoured by the cultural revolution gaining momentum around us.
In fact, the Australian Christians WA office has spent significant time recently meeting with members of parliament. We have also been lobbying different organisations that can put pressure on existing members to speak out on the issue of religious freedom.
Faith, families and freedom are incredibly important for Australia’s future. Why?
Scripture is full of invitations and commands to believe in God and put our faith in him. It is God’s will for the whole human family to have access to the lifesaving gospel; the opportunity to put their faith in His Son, Jesus.
To take the most famous example — John 3:16 — people can only experience eternal life and know about God’s love for the world if they have the chance to believe in Jesus! And as Romans 14 asks, “How can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him?”
The people who settled and forged modern Australia didn’t just bring convicts and cruelty towards Indigenous Australians, even if these are a sad stain on our history. Many European immigrants brought a desire for spiritual and social reform among the convict population, and hopes for a better world shaped by Christian values.
During the first century of European settlement, waves of migrants came to our shores, often with the express purpose of practising their faith with a freedom not available in their homeland. In the lead up to Federation in 1901, well over 90 per cent of the country identified with a Christian church and thought of Australia as a ‘Christian country’.
Though far from perfect, Australia’s tolerance for faith made us a Christian outpost — a ‘Great Southland of the Holy Spirit’ that took the gospel into the Pacific and Asia, and that prospered both spiritually and economically.
Still today, Australia is a refuge for people fleeing persecution in their homelands. Almost one million refugees have relocated here since Federation in 1901. Every year, thousands more refugees are resettled here and hundreds of thousands of migrants come to our shores. It is impossible to seperate these facts from Australia’s long history as a place of religious freedom.
One of the ways that Australians have taken religious freedom for granted is in families being able to educate their children in the ways of Jesus, without interference from the government.
Last week’s Religious Discrimination Bill failure reveals that families may not enjoy this freedom for much longer. If the Senate had passed the bill in its current form, the right for schools to practice and require an explicitly Christian sexual ethos would have been effectively removed.
Even without the RDB debacle, Christians are already getting a taste of low-level religious persecution in Australia. On their website, the Human Rights Law Alliance documents no less than 24 cases of overt religious discrimination suffered by Christians in recent years. Those cases include denied jobs, expulsion from universities, the cancelling of accreditations, and the end of careers.
This is not the Australia we originally founded — the one that invoked “the blessing of Almighty God” in the preamble to our Constitution, and that promised never to make a law “prohibiting the free exercise of any religion” (Section 116).
Clearly, we have work to do. The major parties are unwilling. So please, team up with us. Vote 1 Australian Christians, and let’s keep faith, families and freedom alive in this beautiful country.