Is Religious Influence Growing in our Government?

220px-Sean_Faircloth_at_Reason_Event[1]Is growing conservatism in Australia linked to a spread of religious influence amongst our government? Speaking to Sean Faircloth from the Richard Dawkins Foundation – he believes so.

Touring Australia with his book ‘Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms Us All – And What We Can Do About It’, he warns that a growing trend in religious organisational power within our government could serve as a threat for generations to come.

The queer community should pay particular attention; Faircloth believes that if not met with resistance, unjust religious right to discriminate will remain and increase as politicians cave in to what he calls religious power pressure points:

“Which is why it’s really up to us, the citizens, to go ‘no I’ve had enough of this’, we need to be willing to organise and speak out for a secular perspective”, he said.

Although America currently experiences more of a religious influence than Australia, Faircloth discussed that unlike America, our government funds religious schools. Also above America, our two major political parties are giving into the demands of the Australian Christian Lobby, a group that bases its policies and agenda from strict religious beliefs.

According to Faircloth, these two factors suggest that although religion doesn’t have a complete grip on Australian government and society at present, it could get close to that in generations to come.

Trends in this direction are already starting to become a reality, locally the WA state elections showed a wave of conservatism over the state, with Liberals scoring seats that were previously considered Labor safe seats. Religious Liberals like Peter Abetz have moved from being in a marginal seat to one of the safest in the state.

Despite this shift, Faircloth believes that the vast majority of Australians do not want religion calling the shots in our government. Both his book and lectures (that he will be delivering nationwide) will offer solutions to prevent or slow down this potential transition:

“We need to have a counter balance. I say ‘we’ because I believe an international human rights movement that includes secularism. I think there should be secular advocacy, parties that have it in their platform, secularism as a component. That’s part of my mission.”

Faircloth believes religion has got this far in attaining power through targeting youth in religious schooling and claiming ownership over the term ‘morality’:

“If you educate a generation of school children increasingly with that view point certainly it will have a significant influence… when they have a highly organised effort and they’re educating young people, that highly organised effort can have an effect on the body of politics. Obviously Australia is not there now but Australia should be vigilant about what can happen in the future.”

Faircloth is in adamant opposition to allowing religion to discriminate, particularly in regards to the queer community and women’s rights: “If you say that women should be subordinate, most people are going to say ‘you sexist, what are you talking about?’ but if you wear a bunch of robes and say ‘women shall be subordinate’ then you have to stand back and respect that viewpoint.

“I respect the power to think that, someone’s allowed to think that gay people are terrible, they’re allowed to think it, but I’m not going to buy that the government should be giving preference to that viewpoint”.

When asked if he thinks the government should support same-sex marriage, Faircloth exclaimed “Oh of course! That’s where the future lies”.

Sean Faircloth will be speaking in his lecture ‘Reclaiming a Secular Australia’ at UWA on April 2nd. Tickets are selling fast at UWA Ticketing.

Watch a video of Sean Faircloth previously discussing the risks of religious influence in a public sphere


Watch Dawkins tackle homophobic Christians

Nadine Walker

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