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Media Release – MPs and Religion 16.8.15


MPs to declare their Religious Affiliations:

“Public accountability for politicians goes way beyond the travel rorts triggered by Bronwyn Bishop — it extends to MPs whose religious beliefs dictate popular social policy,” says Brian Morris, author of a new book, ‘Sacred to Secular’.

“Canberra’s latest fiasco to deny overwhelming public demand for marriage equality highlights the substantial influence of Christian MPs from all sides of politics.  Religious bias serves to defy majority public support for an issue so recently resolved by Ireland and America — two of the most Christian nations on the planet,” Morris stated.

“But there’s a simple solution to make parliamentarians publicly accountable for their religious decisions on a broad sweep of contemporary social policy — the MPs whose worldview is based on questionable biblical beliefs.”

“Tony Abbott dashed public hopes for a conscience vote on marriage equality with his controversial call for a coalition party room meeting — resulting in a two-thirds majority to defeat an open vote on the floor of parliament.”

Morris said the divisive Liberal decision, based firmly on Christianity, followed closely on Labor’s National Conference where the faithful also backed Bill Shorten’s call to defer making same-sex marriage a binding ALP policy.

“The gorilla in the room is religion — a point that mainstream political commentators have yet to address.”

“An unrepresentative majority of politicians clearly hold Christian views not shared by most voters, as polls show — and very few MPs identify their religious affiliations in their parliamentary or electorate biographies and websites.”

“In the same way that politicians must declare their pecuniary interest, for reasons of probity, it’s time it also became mandatory for MPs to publicly state the extent of their religious activities, and place them on the public record.”

“This requirement of public transparency does NOT impinge on their right to any faith — or lack of it — but it will indicate to voters a particular religious mindset that may shape their judgement on a raft of contemporary social issues.”

Morris said more than 50% of Australians are now non-Christian; our Constitution specifically identifies Australia as a secular nation; yet MPs can surreptitiously subvert public opinion and secular principles with impunity.

“It’s time that all politicians became open, honest, and accountable on religious beliefs that undermine the very notion of Australia being a secular nation — a concept that our Constitution demands.”

“The public has an absolute right to know where their representatives stand.  Are they among the 32% of Australians who see Genesis as literal truth; that Earth is only 6,000 years old; or believe all the alleged ‘miracles’ of Jesus are true?”

Morris said that many elements of social policy was thwarted by MPs whose supernatural beliefs overrode reason and logic.  He referred to majority public support for issues such as marriage equality, voluntary euthanasia, gender equality, and ethics classes in schools — together with a score of other topics.

“We need to take religion out of politics, as the Scandinavians have done.  They’re highly successful nations that are 80% secular.  They’ve gently moved religion away from the divisive ‘public and political’ sphere, back to the original concept of faith being a purely ‘private and personal’ affair — a theme outlined in the new book, Sacred to Secular.”

“The media, too, can play a vital role by abandoning the 1950s social taboo — that it’s wrong to question religious authority.  It’s a mindset that inhibits the media and public from openly questioning religion in politics; from discussing its known historical flaws; and from questioning its narrow worldview in relation to contemporary socio-political policy.”

“Perhaps it’s time that candidates at election time were specifically asked how their religious beliefs impact on all social policy decisions.  It’s the sort of information that many voters will find useful in deciding who to vote for,” Morris said.


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