The view from Billinudgel

The crusade against same-sex marriage
The Church is inconsistent in its rhetoric on discrimination


At last our national daily has come clean. The Australian has now abandoned any pretence that the current plebiscite has anything to do with same-sex marriage and instead embarked on a holy war to maintain, and if possible enhance, religious (by which it really means Roman Catholic) privilege.

The princes of the Church have already spoken: Pope Paul Kelly calls current laws to protect the faithful “inadequate”; Cardinal Greg Sheridan derides them as “pathetically weak”.

But of course they will not tell us what they actually want, because to do so would admit the awful truth: the aim of the crusade is a full-on theocracy in which not only the Church but all its adherents will – while enjoying total immunity for themselves – be allowed and encouraged to discriminate at will against those who hold opposing views.

If there was any lingering doubt about this, it was resolved last week when the paper swung into action over the case of Madeline, the teenager who is unwilling to give her surname. Madeline, a children’s entertainer, was told that she would no longer be offered contract work by her employer because she had posted on the internet “It’s OK to vote no.”

Naturally, the naysayers reacted with outrage: one of the more restrained, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, whose government normally fiercely opposes moves to counter unfair dismissal, described it as unconscionable.

Well, fair enough. But hang on: is it not equally, or more, unconscionable for Church employers to dismiss their workers for their beliefs?

They demand, and receive, exemption from discrimination laws in their schools, hospitals and nursing homes, and can and do use their authority to enforce conformity; gay and lesbian singles, let alone couples, are routinely excluded from their ranks.

Indeed, one sturdily heterosexual pair were refused church marriage by the Presbyterians when they dared to tweet in favour of same-sex marriage. No outrage there; rather, tacit approval as the zealots of the Murdoch press pursue their case that not only Church officials but anyone who claims to be a Christian – the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker – should be allowed to break the law to deny service to those whose beliefs they do not approve of.

This is not the only inconsistency; when the AFL publicly endorsed same-sex marriage, the cry went up that sport and politics do not mix, that it was none of the AFL’s business. But of course sport and politics mix all the time, as do religion and politics.

No one would dare say that opposing same-sex marriage is none of the Church’s business, in spite of the fact that marriage law is a purely secular matter: this is why the debate has to be resolved in the Australian parliament rather than in the Vatican.

But, for the faithful, the issue is all important. This is pure identity politics: their Catholicism surpasses and transcends all other concerns. And it is how and why they are trying to turn what should be a straightforward question of civil reform into a holy war they can use to transform and dominate society in their own image. Yes, there are indeed unforeseen consequences contingent on the plebiscite, but they are not the ones we need to worry about.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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