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Opinion: Timely reminder Religion/Politics don’t mix

Published by Australian Independent Media Network on 7th April 2023

If Easter is a time of reflection it may well be relevant for both major parties to reflect on that age-old conundrum — is mixing religion with politics such a good idea?  Certainly that’s not currently so for the Liberal Party, as we shall see — nor for the ALP, when turning back a couple of pages in history.

Why, then, is South Australian premier, Peter Malinauskas, so intent on stirring up a religious hornets nest by nailing his Catholic colours to the Easter cross, for an illusion of political gain?

What is it that drove Malinauskas to spend taxpayer funds for an extravagant mail-out simply to promote his own personal devotion to Catholicism?  Did cabinet approve, or did the premier pay?

The crafted Easter card featured the crusading cry “Christ is Risen”. It eulogised the “Feast of Feast”, and came with a Sunday-school-type graphic of a Westernised Jesus in flowing white robes.

Easter has long been regarded as a family affair for the vast majority of ordinary Australians – while churches continue to preach supernatural rituals for their steadily diminishing flock.

In progressive Scandinavian nations the public simply overlay secular meaning to every religious festival — which makes them ‘inclusive’ to all.

Malinauskas has sought to politicise Easter for personal electoral grain, and to promote his own devout faith.  Neither are socially acceptable in 2023.

Certainly, the premier is entitled to a personal Christian faith. But to spruik it does seem anomalous when a full two-thirds of his Croydon electorate are of mixed-faith or they are non-religious.

Just how much did this vanity exercise actually cost? And who else, other than the  premier, believed it was a worthwhile expenditure of funds? Or did Peter Malinauskas pay for the whole promotion out of his own pocket? A sceptical public majority would probably think not.

Various prime ministers and assorted federal and state politicians have, over many years, chosen to wear some kind of religious denomination on their sleeve. It was Scott Morrison who enthusiastically spruiked his devotion to Pentecostalism and tried to take the country with him – but all the media hype of his praying, and belief in “miracles”, only contributed to his undoing in the end.

Most of the population are no longer willing to tolerate harmful and divisive behaviours that are promoted as caring and benign religions. Many are shrouded in secrecy, as well illustrated in the recent expose’ of Opus Dei, a derivative of Catholicism. The recent ABC Four Corners program revealed the trauma caused to students by teaching the Opus Dei pathway to ‘purity’.

Religious groups have become increasingly militant — here, here, and here — as they rail against secular values. They see it as their divine right to violently oppose abortion, voluntary assisted dying, and the basic rights of LGBTI and transgender communities.

Do the Liberals not see ‘electoral damage’ in their rank; nor Labor their 1955 religious Waterloo?

A growing problem for the Liberal Party has been the wave of right wing Christians who have joined various branches with the intension of influencing social policy. It took Alex Turnbull, son of the former prime minister, to write a scathing opinion piece and clarify the evangelical invasion.

He says religious fundamentalists were, “… engaging in the destruction of a system with which (they) do not identify. The problem lies with the enemy, not with the sect … the rules do not apply to them, and that a core objective is subverting or replacing those rules and norms.”

He states, “I suspect that at this point the Liberal Party is too far gone. The branches have been stacked … (they) cannot be pulled back from control exerted by these more extremist groups (and) … it appears much of the Australian public has already figured this out.”

But Labor has skeletons in its own closet too . . .!

Most of today’s voters would be unaware of the 1955 ALP split that tore Labor apart. Federal opposition leader for Labor, Herbert “Doc” Evatt, denounced the influence of Bob Santamaria and the dominant Catholic faction — which split from the ALP to become the Democratic Labor Party (DLP).

So, like it or not, the ALP does have a Catholic history, and many rejoined Labor once the DLP lost its electoral appeal. But the DLP was not deregistered federally until 2022 — and a Victorian DLP member was actually elected to the Legislative Assembly in that same year.

That brush with Catholicism kept Labor out of federal government for a further seventeen years!

Today, the basis of our democracy must remain the separation of Church and State. People have freedom to practise any faith they choose. There is an expectation that those in public office, funded by taxpayers, respect all belief positions and do not proselytise for their particular brand of religion.

So it is concerning that Peter Malinauskas — a state premier —  deems it part of his job to send every voter in his electorate a Christian Easter Card depicting a very white Anglo Saxon Jesus, and eulogising his personal belief that “Christ is Risen”. This, when just *36.1 percent of his electorate is Christian.

** Rationalists note that all Census 2021 data on religion is inflated, due to a biased question.

So, where are all the secular and non-religious politicians in state and federal parliaments? When will they raise a voice of reason to temper the religious zeal of these devout Christian MPs — those who simply inspire and validate this destructive new trend of religious extremism?

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