It seems to be mostly the far-right fruitcakes who are scared of the imposition of Sharia Law in Australia. People like One Notion’s Pauline Hanson ramble on about it seemingly interminably, and Jacqui Lambie has been forced to pull her head in a couple of times because of her ignorance1. These sorts of idiotic attitudes are simply because Hanson, Lambie and their ilk only seem to think that Sharia law is all about caning, whipping and severing of hands and heads. It isn’t. It is simply a religious system that tells you what you should and shouldn’t do if you are a Muslim1,2. It is much like the Christian list of things you should and shouldn’t do, although recently, the latter has taken a bit of a battering at the hands of all the faux Christians in parliament3. From these people, and from the Coalition, you never hear of anything concerning Dominionism. You probably will ask ‘What’s that?’.
Dominionism is the Christian equivalent of Sharia Law. The name comes from the Book of Genesis in which god tells Adam and Eve to have ‘dominion’ over the Earth and its animals. It almost goes without saying that the rabid right of Christianity believe this to mean that they are mandated to control all earthly institutions until the second coming of Jesus (yes, really). There are two main schools of Dominionism. The first comprises Christian Reconstructionists, who believe in biblical law, including stoning as punishment for adultery and other transgressions, and that this should replace secular law. The other comprises New Apostolic Reformers which advocate that Christians should reclaim government, media, business, education, arts and entertainment. In the United states, the concept has floated to the surface about every four years or so ever since evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson ran for President in 19884.
While I can almost hear you say ‘only in America’, and that nothing like this could happen in Australia, that would be misguided. Examples are numerous. Here are a few:
- The Carlingford (Sydney) branch of the Liberal Party has suggested “straightening out the law and order system” by handing sentencing power to a panel of 20 members of the public. The president of the branch suggested that for stealing a T-shirt a perpetrator should get 10 lashes; stealing a car would incur 1,000 lashes; punching a police officer, 5,000 lashes; and murder, 20,000 lashes5.
- Senator Amanda Stoker is deeply concerned about the possibility of children starting up gay clubs if they are in Catholic schools. She has already argued against the recent decriminalisation of abortion in Queensland, and thinks that any moves to remove the Lord’s Prayer from the beginning of parliament as distressing, despite the Constitution prohibiting the enforcement of any religious observance. She is also vehemently opposed to voluntary euthanasia6. She is simply an example and has many colleagues who think the same way.
- Lyle Shelton, former director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), and one of the leaders of the ‘No’ campaign in the lead up to the same-sex marriage plebiscite, joined Bernardi’s political party, the Australian Conservatives, and nominated for the Senate (for Queensland) in the recent federal election. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for Australia, he failed comprehensively. Prior to the election, he stated that he would keep fighting ‘for decades’ to repeal marriage equality. He also was of the opinion that parents should be allowed to send their children to gay conversion therapy7.
- The ACL has tried their hardest to oppose the voluntary euthanasia bill in the Victorian Parliament, but failed. However, before the election, the Victorian director of the ACL stated that: “if sufficient clear-sighted MPs are elected in November 2018, the euthanasia crisis can be averted. The legislation can be repealed in early 2019, before any wrongful deaths occur under the scheme, which is otherwise due to commence in June 2019”8.
- Pentecostal church leaders warned before the election that a darkness would descend on Australia and christians would be persecuted if Scott Morrison had not won the recent general election. Pastor Adam Thompson from the Voice of Fire Ministries stated at the time that “the Lord woke me at 4.30am this morning….I really see that the body of Christ is going to have influence in the … political arena of this nation”. Adrian Beale from Everrest Ministries said that the Lord should “get behind our new leader… and that the next election would be won so that godly principles would be put into place, rather than the enemy having his way”9. Who he means by ‘the enemy’ is unclear, but one suspects he means the Labor Party.
- A private member’s bill repealing the Howard government’s 1997 ban on Australia’s territories (Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory) being able to legalise voluntary euthanasia was introduced to the federal parliament by then Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm in late 201810. The bill was voted down. Of course, the ACL were overjoyed. Martyn Iles, their Managing Director said: “The inherent value of every life must continue to be maintained”11. After all, suffering is good for people, isn’t it?
- As part of the failed Liberal Party campaign in the Victorian election, the religious nutters who run the party in that state thought it would be a “really great” policy to re-introduce religious instruction into public schools12. Of course, this is not about religious education (i.e. comparative religion), it is about instruction and it is only about Christian instruction13.
- Despite numerous opinion polls showing the populace was in favour of allowing same-sex marriage, the resistance of the religious, especially those in parliament, to the concept of same-sex marriage was extreme. It extended to the point of forcing the nation to have this unnecessary and expensive voluntary postal vote purely as a delaying tactic. This was done in the hope it would give the religious time to marshal their troops and their arguments. Fortunately, it was to no avail14. However, now their aim is to repeal it (see above).
- The National School Chaplaincy Programme was begun by the Howard government, and it is a programme which funds religious chaplains in Australian primary and secondary schools. These chaplains are to provide “support and guidance about ethics, values, relationships and spirituality”, and are provided by religious service companies which are very predominantly Christian (96.5%). At the time it was set up, no formal qualifications were required to become a chaplain. During the tenure of the Gillard government, the then Minister for Education, Peter Garrett announced that new chaplains were required to have a “Certificate IV in Youth Work, Pastoral Care or an equivalent qualification”. He also stated that schools had the option to employ a ‘secular student well-being officer’15. These were in response to a High Court challenge to the programme in 201216. Previously, this was only allowed if schools were unable to find an ordained chaplain. In 2014 the Abbott government disallowed schools the ability to fund secular counsellors, so that all chaplains had to be affiliated with a religion. Despite a second High Court challenge to the programme succeeding in 2014, the government altered the funding arrangements to circumvent that High Court ruling17.
- The big fear by the religious during the recent federal election was the perception that their ‘religious freedoms’ were at risk. Now the Morrison government is considering ‘religious freedom’ legislation. This is a turnaround, as previously, many conservative churches opposed strengthening Australia’s religious freedom protections in the Constitution; such as those put to the populace in the 1988 referendum. Back then, religious freedom meant protecting religious minorities (e.g. Jews, Muslims) against discrimination18. However, religion is in rapid decline in Australia, with the 2016 census showing those professing to have ‘no religion’ is at 30.1%. This is up from 0.8% in 1966. The concomitant decline in those professing to be christian has slipped from 88% in 1966 to 52% in 201619. When christians were the vast majority in Australia, the institutional position and power of the churches was assured so there was no need to legislate for religious freedom18. Now this majority is rapidly declining and may soon become a minority, they want that position and power to be legislated lest it be at risk. They are also very frightened that once their institutional power dissipates, they might have to pay tax like the rest of us. Religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution so there should be no need to legislate such freedoms, until you realise that the freedom most desired by these churches is the freedom to discriminate, and with their declining power, that freedom is also at risk.
The religious say they are afraid of persecution, but as I have said elsewhere, when you have been privileged for so long, equality seems like persecution20. They should have no fear of real persecution because that is prohibited by the constitution21, and that has mostly worked in Australia, despite the propensity for the Coalition to ignore the bits of the constitution they don’t like (Section 44, for instance). I suspect the religious are also terrified that when they become a minority, people will treat them the same way the religious treated other minorities when the power and privilege lay with the church. That, and being taxed, like the rest of us.