Life after Folau

Australians need to learn to live with difference, say Christian leaders

Christian leaders from conservative evangelical to Catholic are calling for Australians to learn to live with difference.

Beyond Israel Folau the individual lies the question of a large-scale Pacific Islander-based community in football codes. It’s estimated that one third of Rugby Union players are Christian, and 40 per cent in the NRL.

“What people don’t realise is that for every Israel Folau or Kathy Clubb, there are many religious discrimination cases you don’t hear about,” John Steenhof, Managing Director of the Human Rights Law Alliance (HRLA) told a religious freedom meeting at Parramatta’s St John’s Cathedral. HLRA is a sister organisation to the Australian Christian Lobby.

Clubb is the anti-abortion protestor who featured in a recent High Court case, which saw exclusion zones around abortion clinics upheld.

Steenhoff gave several other examples: practitioners hauled before their professional body’s tribunal for media comments and a complaint against a father for failing to use new pronouns for their offspring.

“A TAFE lecturer in WA was hauled up for saying to a student who used the Lord’s name in vain, ‘Do you know Jesus? I do and I find what you said offensive.’”

Australia’s Catholic bishops point to Pope Francis’s comment that “politics is at the service of peace” in their pre-election statement.

“We all have a role in promoting peace – which means speaking to our fellow Australians with love not hate, with respect not contempt, with understanding not indifference,” the Bishops say.

“Start conversations with people you don’t know; volunteer for community groups; go to public events. We all need to be more open, interested and engaged.”

“We’ve divorced ourselves. We’ve cut ourselves off from the culture in which we were nurtured.” – John Anderson

“We’ve divorced ourselves,” says John Anderson, Australia’s former Deputy Prime Minister, who has been building a new profile as a Christian commentator. “We’ve cut ourselves off from the culture in which we were nurtured”.

Anderson, to the Parramatta meeting St John’s Cathedral this week, argued that we have lost the ability to talk calmly to people we disagree with.

Freedom of religion can’t be “disaggregated” from the other freedoms in his view. Freedom of conscience – the basic freedom – can’t be separated from freedom of religion, speech and association. “We have to have a way we can live with each other’s differences.”

That should be based on the view that “whether or not you or I agree, we are of equal worth to the higher power.”

Institute for Civil Society’s Professor Mark Sneddon introduced a cautionary note at the end of the meeting warning Christians to be careful of what they say.

“There are many people who are hurt out there, including many homosexual [people],” he said.