April 8th 2012
In a place which is considered by many to be one of the most secular countries in the world, it is easy for Australians to become complacent about religious influence in politics and legislation. The team here at The Static Press are united in the conviction that while our country plays host to idiots like Ray Comfort and Mel Gibson, we have absolutely nothing to be complacent about. Secondarily to these two, seemingly unbeknownst to moderate apologists, we have a few little embarrassing problems of a legislative nature. Allow us to show you our top ten.
10 - SWEARING ON (NOT AT) THE BIBLE
While this may seem benign, the idea that someone is primarily judged to be more trustworthy due to any particular religious convictions is a permeating, and potentially damaging, idea that still persists.
And, in order to avoid my tendency to descend into atheistic ranting, I shall invoke none other than the ancient tome itself to support my claim.
James 5:12. “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”
9 - STATES CAN ESTABLISH AN OFFICIAL RELIGION
“The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.” Section 116, Australian Constitution.
Thankfully, this means that an official religion of Australia cannot be constitutionally established. However, there is no such provision for the states. In fact, the Federal Government have tried TWICE to amend this section of the constitution to correct this little odditty (once in 1944 and again in 1988) and FAILED both times.
… I wonder if I can get Pastafarianism established as the official religion of WA…?
8 - RETAIL TRADING LAWS
This is one we should all be familiar with. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t suffered as a result of the ridiculous restrictions on alcohol sales and licensed venues on Good Friday. Yes, sure, all one must do is think ahead and purchase their happy juice the day before. But why, I demand, should one HAVE to? I’m quite sure the pagans (off whom the Christians stole this holiday and plenty of others) would have absolutely no objection to the merry drinking of fermented beverages.
Let us take this a little further. If you have the great fortune of living in the Wild Wild West, you will notice that a particularly strange phenomenon takes place after a Saturday. Unless you’re in a “tourist precinct” the shops are shut. Seriously. Everything’s closed. We’re observing the Sabbath, dontcha know? Ridiculous, archaic... and still only in at number 8!
7 – TAX EXEMPTION
This is one little legislative crazy that is very dear to my heart, and certainly dear to the hearts of every property-developing church out there. No freaking income tax.
No, I hear you objecting. Do not misrepresent the facts! It is not only religious organisations that are tax exempt!
And you would be absolutely right. There are plenty of other organisations in Australia that claim, and receive, tax exempt status. These include scientific organisations, sporting organisations, health organisations, cultural organisations and more. But here is where it gets a little hokey. There are a certain number of “conditions” that must be met for one of these organisations to claim tax exempt status, and each category has different conditions. One that is quite common, however, it the condition that the organisation must be a non-profit organisation.
Quite common, but not all encompassing. Yep, you guessed it. Religious organisations do not need to be considered non-profit organisations like most of them. In fact, every other organisation (except trade unions, what’s all that about?!) must be non-profit.
6 - EUTHANASIA
We actually almost had this one sorted, back in 1995. The Northern Territory became the first place in the world to pass assisted suicide legislation. How progressive of us! Too bad that a mere nine months later the Federal Government managed to overturn it. Now, seventeen years later, not much more progress has been made.
The fact that even the term ‘euthanasia’ sparks heated debate and controversy is bizarre. Where are the rational, secular arguments against euthanasia? The so called “slippery slope” argument is wobbly at best, as stats from countries like the Netherlands, in which assisted suicide is legal, show that there are usually less deaths in such countries than there are in countries where the procedure is not legal.
After much pressure from the religious right, the Federal government (with MP Kevin Andrews at the helm of the ‘debate’) was able to overturn the legislation based on the Northern Territory being a territory and not a state. Crazy Christians – 1; Tortured Cancer Patients – 0.
5 – NATIONAL CHAPLAINCY PROGRAM
This particular piece of faecally inspired legislation (ooh I’m getting angry already, and it’s only the first few words!) was introduced by the Howard Government (there’s a surprise) in 2006. At the offset, $165 million was given to the scheme. And what, you ask, was this scheme? Well, it consisted of putting completely unqualified bible thumpers in positions of authority in public schools (public schools… public schools) in order to “support” (or proselytise to) impressionable students.
I’m sure that the chaplains haven’t actually hurt anyone, and my utter contempt for this scheme is not directed at individual people. I’m sure that, on a whole, they would serve (at best) as a neutral ear to listen to the problems of troubled kids coming through the (PUBLIC) schooling system.
At $165 million, that is a pretty bloody expensive ear.
If you think this is ridiculous, just wait! It was only THIS YEAR that the Government (who has changed since 2006, in case you missed it) proposed that maybe, just maybe, there were a few problems with the National Chaplaincy Scheme. Well, they put on their thinking caps and announced that they were… wait for it…. CHANGING THE NAME OF THE SCHEME! It is now called… The National Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Scheme! Voila! Problem solved! Onya, Peter Garrett!
Oh, and now, to the great annoyance of the church, the chaplains must have a Certificate IV in Youth Work, Pastoral Care or ‘equivalent’, which meant of course that the government had to throw more money at it. The projected cost of the program for 2012 is $220 million.
For $220 million you can buy a lot of good pens... or computers... or textbooks... or teachers...
4 – SPOUSAL RAPE IS TOTALLY COOL
The Bible has some pretty bizarre stuff in it, make no mistake. Mass Jewish exoduses that can never have possibly taken place, a crazy deity airing his petty and oddly humanlike concerns for all the world to see, and completely and utterly incompatible events only penned years and even centuries after the “events” were supposed to have taken place. It’s cruel, it’s unusual, and it’s a pretty interesting piece of literature.
But not all of the bible is horrible, particularly what is called the “New Testament” (though there is plenty of that which would raise more than eyebrows in polite society). Some verses in the bible are actually quite nice. Take this little one from Corinthians 7:4…
"The wife’s body does not belong to her alone, but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone, but also to his wife."
From which the Christians of old happily take that spousal rape is totally cool, and in fact, cannot even be called rape!!
Which brings me to number four. In Australia, it was legal for a husband to rape his wife until 1991. NINETEEN NINETY ONE!!! Did we just forget that there was a crazy law in place? Did it actually, seriously, take the cases Reg V R  1AC 612 and The Queen v L  174 CLR 379 to help remind us that we had a crazy Christian law on the loose?
3 – Y U NO KEEP UNWANTED BABIES?
Yes, it’s the abortion debate again, coming in at a respectable number 3! I won’t harp on about it, as we all are fairly well acquainted with the arguments around it. However, you may not be acquainted with the laws around it. Abortion law is different state to state. Did you know that abortion is only fully legal (that is, legal on request) in TWO STATES in Australia? That’s right. Victoria and the ACT are the only states in which you can obtain an abortion (before a ceratin cut off period, which again changes from state to state) with no questions asked.
In NSW and WA, you may obtain an abortion for reasons of: maternal life, rape, health, foetal defects, mental health, economic factors, and/or social factors. In SA, NT and TAS, abortion is legal for maternal life, rape, health, foetal defects, and/or mental health. In QLD, it is legal for maternal life, health, and/or mental health.
In Tasmania, “unlawful abortion” was not legal until 2001. TWO THOUSAND AND ONE! (There was no specification as to what lawful abortion was.)
Are these laws actually enforced? You bet they are! In 2006, a doctor was convicted in NSW of performing two abortions without enquiring as to whether or not there was a legal reason for doing so. Another two had been previously and similarly prosecuted in Perth in 1998 for the same thing.
Is it just me who sees the religious view of abortion and euthanasia as conflicting views? Actually, scratch that, they’re both quite adamant on one point – why let the individual decide when we’re around to force our beliefs on them? That’s our RIGHT, is it not?
2 – LETS EXPEL THE GAY KIDS… LOVINGLY
As if the religious peeps didn’t feel controlling enough over public schools with their chaplains and their scripture, they have to dominate private schooling as well. What is it about religions and kids? Maybe they’re aware that no indoctrination from an early age = a much higher chance of not needing to live on Fantasy Island as an adult? Anyway, coming in at number two is the insane and ridiculous provision which allows private schools in NSW to expel homosexual students from their schools based on nothing but their homosexuality.
When this burst onto the media scene in February of 2011, a surprising number of religious sources came out in opposition to the archaic law. Good for them! Unfortunately the attorney-general John Hatzistergos was not up with the times. Through a spokesman, Mr. Hatzistergos, described the 30-year-old law as necessary “to maintain a sometimes delicate balance between protecting individuals from unlawful discrimination while allowing people to practise their own beliefs”.