Hastie: the problems for religious freedom stem from the lack of Christians

Liberal MP Andrew Hastie has outlined what he believes to be the biggest contributing factor to the current debates around religious freedom and whether schools should be allowed to sack gay teachers. The Western Australian MP says it’s because of the declining number of Christians in Australia.

“If we go back to the census of 1911, 96 per cent of Australian identified as Christian, if we got to 2016 census 52% of Australians identify as Christian, and the vast majority of that number are aged over 65 and above. So the trend line is to see a further recession of Christian belief in this country.

Speaking on the Sky News program Outsiders, Hastie said society had not had to deal with such a widespread variation in beliefs over 300 years.

“We have to adapt and we haven’t really had to think about how we all live together with competing ideas and convictions probably since the end of the English civil in 1688, where Catholics and Protestants had to work out how to live together.”

Hastie said Australia was becoming an increasingly secular country and that’s why the coalition’s backbenchers had tried to protect religious freedom via amendments to the marriage equality bill last year to ensure that people of faith could continue to express traditional beliefs of marriage, family or gender.

Hastie said the government should release the Ruddock Review into Religious Freedom but take its time to debate the reports findings.

“We should proceed very cautiously, we should release the report, we should allow the public, the community and parliament to consider it’s findings and then respond. There is no rush on these questions, they are so crucial, so vital, freedom is a critical part of democracy so we need to be so careful about what we do.”

Hastie said he and his backbench colleagues were telling Prime Minister Scott Morrison to proceed cautiously.

It was the first episode of the Outsiders program since it was temporarily taken off air earlier in the week and co-host Ross Cameron was sacked for making racist comments.

At the top of the program remaining host Rowan Dean said Cameron’s comments on Tuesday night had crossed a line but it would inappropriate to describe his former colleague as a racist.

“All our viewers know that my fellow host Ross Cameron and I have pushed the boundaries of political correctness each and every week, and every night, on this program as we railed against the leftist agenda in this country for the last couple of year, but a line was crossed on our program late on Tuesday.

Dean said Cameron had publicly apologised for his comments, “even though his intention was quite the opposite, as the context makes clear. He acknowledged he made a poor choice of words.”

“The Ross Cameron I know is is no racist. Dean said, claiming that Cameron was in fact a tireless anti-racism campaigner. The remaining Outsider said Cameron was a “tireless and passionate campaigner for the Chinese and Jewish communities in Australia.”

Joining Dean on the couch in place of Cameron was News Corp columnist Piers Akerman who asked if Hastie was concerned that the current debate would lead to a push for a bill of rights, something he saw as power being taken away from politicians and placed in the hands of the judiciary.

“The last thing we want is an activist judiciary deciding these matters.” Hastie responded, “That’s why the current debate around some of these exemptions for educational institutions established for religious purposes are so fought.”

Hastie said the current debate around the possibility of students being expelled over their sexuality was simply a “scare campaign rivaling medi-scare” that was rolled out during the Wentworth by-election.

“Nothing could be further from the truth” Hastie said to the suggestion that a religious based school would consider expelling a student over their sexuality.

Akerman said the effects of allowing marriage equality were now being seen in school and preschools across the country, and he believes teachers should be ordered to stop recognising transgender children.

“Children are being told that the boy in the dress is actually a girl. A four year old child, believe it or not, actually knows “No, no – that’s a boy in a dress” and they are being told that they’re wrong. We have to go back to basics an tells teachers that they can’t confuse kiddies with this sort of crap.”

Hastie said he agreed with Akerman’s view and there would be consequences if the exemptions in the anti-discrimination act were removed, saying the results would be played out in school yards.

“There won’t be any protections for schools to teach binary gender. Boys are boys, and girls are girls. That’s a huge problem, it strikes at the heart of the religious schools movement.” Hastie said.

OIP Staff