Thursday, November 13, 2014

Separation of church and state, or separation of state and church?

This comes from a Facebook discussion regarding the Victorian Labor Party's proposals to amend equal opportunity legislation so that Christian schools will be required to employ staff of other religious beliefs, or none.

Some Christian contributors to this discussion seem to actually think that this legislation is a good idea. Furthermore, because Australia is a secular democracy, its laws should reflect this. For this reason, Christians have no right to have their beliefs forced on others through legislation. From there, the discussion progressed to other hot button issues such as same sex marriage, abortion, and school chaplaincy programs.

My contributions are as follows.

It's all very well to talk about separation of church and state and points of constitutional law. Some Christians believe in dominion theology and dream of enacting a Christian government, but it's never going to happen. The real problem right now is separation of state and church, where the government will in effect be able to dictate to the church what it can and cannot teach. Victorian Labor's proposal to remove equal opportunity exemptions for religious schools are an example of this. This is a dangerous road to start travelling down. Where will it end? I wrote to Labor about this issue and they sent me a pro forma reply. There was nothing in their reply that assuaged my concerns. I don't trust them.

Someone them suggested to me that my concerns were misguided. This was my response:

All of those prospects are horrible. I disagree that these concerns are misguided. I'm pessimistic about gay marriage. We're supposed to believe that churches won't be affected, but I'm among those Christians who aren't convinced. it ever becomes legal, then eventually churches will be forced to marry gay couples who want a church wedding or face legal penalties. I'm not a parent so can't comment on chaplaincy programs. I don't think abortion will never be made illegal again, but I'll keep being involved in the pro life movement. I have attended several pro life protest rallies, not to attack those who have had abortions, but to make a peaceful statement against an unjust law. In doing this I I respect government authority, but if the government asks me to do something against God's law, then God's law comes first.

My final comment was as follows.

This legislation sets a dangerous precedent and I don't see any reason to think that it won't have implications for other faith based organisations. I don't trust Labor. Remember the 2001 Racial and Religious Tolerance Act? We all know how well that turned out. In 2002 the Islamic Council of Victoria took action against Catch the Fire Ministries after it held a teaching seminar on Islam, and some Muslims claimed they were offended simply because a seminar speaker told attendees what the Koran said. Catch the Fire Ministries ended up before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and the case took years to resolve. I remember making a submission on the draft legislation and raised my concerns about the potential for restrictions on religious discourse. Their assurances that there was nothing to worry about amounted to nothing. This is exactly what happened. Now whenever similar events are held, attendees are required to register beforehand, and they must also be a member of a church.

As for the Labor Party, as well as their poor stewardship of taxpayers money, the other thing I don't like about them is its apparent belief that social problems can be dealt with by passing legislation and controlling how people think. There are some good Christian people in the Labor Party, but in this debate, their voice is being ignored. When I vote in this election, I will not be voting for my preferred candidate so much as voting against Labor and against its attempts to interfere in religious matters.

Jumping on the plastic bandwagon

Cinemablend reports today that hot on the heels of this year's massively successful The Lego Movie, a movie is also in the works. Business news sites such as Forbes and the Wall Street Journal reported that The Lego Movie boosted sales of Lego toys. No doubt Brandst├Ątter, makers of the Playmobil line, are hoping for similar results when their film is released in 2017.
Playmobil

No casting decisions have yet been made, but one actor springs readily to mind; Norwegian Espen Eckbo. In the mockumentary Get Ready to be Boyzvoiced (2000), the fictional boy band Boyzvoice performed the song We Are the Playmomen while dressed as Playmobil characters. Eckbo played their lead singer M'Pete.

This film is a work of comic genius. It is well worth tracking down either on DVD or on one of its occasionally showings on SBS television here in Australia. If Eckbo is cast in the film, will his character say, "I'm a boy," or "I'm a big dork?" My reader will know this reference if he or she has seen the film. 

http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Playmobil-Getting-Movie-Because-Course-68185.html

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Mind games

If the opinion polls are correct, on the morning of November 30, Daniel Andrews will wake up as the new Premier of Victoria.

Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews
It has been well publicised that Mr Andrews cattle farmer father has terminal cancer and has weeks to live. Yesterday a media contingent was bussed onto the farm for the auctioning off of his cattle holdings. Clips of the auction were shown on the evening television news bulletins. 

What is not clear is whose decision it was to do this. is Mr Andrews comfortable with sharing what should be a private matter with Victorian voters, or did this idea come from Labor Party campaign headquarters? 

You would have to have a cold heart to not feel compassion for Andrews at this difficult time. By all accounts he is a decent man. Even so, it looks like an attempt to leverage his father's illness in an attempt to give him a favourable image and garner sympathy votes from the Victorian public. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Visual assault

This is a novel, Where Have All the Mothers Gone? by David Olson. I have no idea what it's about. In order to find that out I'll need to actually read it. In any event, the cover artwork is really bad. A toddler raises his arm towards an evil looking man who bares an almost uncanny resemblance to the late actor John Colicos (1928-2000). Among his many credits, Colicos appeared as the villainous Baltar in the original 1978 series of Battlestar Galactica. Were it still possible, the only thing this book needs is an audio version read by Lorne Greene, sadly also now deceased. Patrick Macnee, who guest starred as Count Iblis in this series, is still alive, however.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Taking something good and using it for evil

Did you ever wonder why Islamic State militants make their hostages wear orange jumpsuits? I didn't either until I heard a sermon on the origins of Islamic State by Pastor Patt Fisk Pastor Fisk said that they do this deliberately in their propaganda videos to mock what they see as the infidel West. Captured suspected Islamic militants who were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay and other facilities wore orange jumpsuits as their prison uniform.

Obviously they saw this as a humiliation against their fellow Muslims, and dressing their hostages in these same uniforms is part of how they are taking revenge against their former oppressors. I did an internet search for a suitable picture of one of these hostages, but all of them are too graphic and this blog is not the place for sensationalism.

As a Christian, I would hope that God's grace is big enough to reach anyone, but some people are irredeemably evil. Islamic State are deluded fanatics who are intent in bringing the entire world under the subjugation of their religion. They will never succeed in their aims, but they are serious threat to international security. Their actions demonstrate that they are not interested in diplomacy or peaceful negotiations. The fact of the matter is that you can't negotiate with someone who wants you dead. Therefore military force is the only way to deal with them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_State_of_Iraq_and_the_Levant

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/who-are-isis-the-rise-of-the-islamic-state-in-iraq-and-the-levant-9541421.html

http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=1013141342362

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2014/08/28/once-again-militants-use-guantanamos-orange-jumpsuit-in-an-execution/

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It's time for pedantry corner

1972 Labor campaign poster
Former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam died today, aged 98. Both loved and loathed by many, he was a polarizing figure, but without question he was one of the most significant Australian political leaders of recent times.

In a game of journalistic one upmanship, rival news outlets rushed to be first with the news of his passing. This backfired for The Age, whose report this morning carried a quote from Federal Labor Opposition Leader Bill Shroten. Bill Shorten would be bewildered to see that his surname has changed. By this afternoon the error was corrected.

Google the Omniscient says that there are people with the surname Shroten in the world, but the White Pages says that none of them are living in Australia. 

This is another textbook example of what happens when you don't pay attention to detail. Times are difficult at Fairfax Media, with significant restructuring of the company in recent years, but surely they still have adequate resources to proof read and edit their content before publication. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Concerning

Wassim Doureihi
To almost universal derision, Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesperson Wassim Doureihi appeared on ABC TV's Lateline. He didn't do himself or his organisation any favours with his aggressively delivered answers.

Program host Emma Alberici repeatedly invited Doureihi to denounce the atrocities of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but he refused to do so. He was asked to comment on whether the actions of Islamic State (IS) fighters beheading people and taking their severed heads as trophies could be justified, but deflected that question too.

Nor would he say anything to dissuade young Australian Muslim men in Australia from joining IS. Hizb ut-Tahrir wants to see Australia become incorporated into a global Islamic caliphate governed by Sharia law. Again he would not be drawn on how he thought this would be enacted.

Rather than engage with Alberici on an equal footing, he wanted to present his own agenda. Did he have a problem with being interviewed by a woman who he presumably believes is inferior to a man? Read the interview transcript and you will see that he rejects the narrative of the war on terror given by Western governments. In his worldview, militant Muslims are simply the aggrieved victims of unjust and criminal Western militarism.

He also claims that Muslims are forbidden from killing innocent civilians. This raises the question of what exactly makes a person an innocent civilian, on what basis is their innocence or guilt determined, and infers that there is another category of person that it is justified to kill.

Islamic theology divides the world into two spheres; Dar al-Harb (House of War) and Dar al-Islam (House of Peace). Any part of the world not belonging to the Dar al-Islam is in rebellion against Allah and is therefore deemed to be at war against the Dar al-Islam, and must be subjugated. It is the duty of every Muslim to bring all of the world into the Dar al-Harb. Some Muslims are doing this peacefully, while others have a militaristic understanding of this obligation. Furthermore, there is plenty of Islamic scholarship arguing that is it permissible to kill civilians who are not a part of the Dar al-Islam and who will not submit to Islam.

This group has been banned in several countries. I think it's time to give serious consideration into banning it in Australia as well. While it doesn't speak for all Australian Muslims, should we tolerate a group that has no loyalty to the Australian nation, wants to overturn our existing form of government, and replace it with one befitting its nightmare vision of a global caliphate? No thanks. This is serious.

http://www.answering-islam.org/Index/index.html

http://www.answering-islam.org/Silas/islams_wrinkled_face.htm

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/let-their-warped-words-be-heard/story-e6frg7bo-1227090525248

http://barnabasfund.org/AU/Islamic-theology-and-Iraqi-Christians-Part-II.html

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/radical-muslim-cleric-ismail-alwahwah-tells-supporters-a-new-world-order-is-coming/story-fni0cx12-1227086878686?nk=b7125899d89f17af8783e39f35bddf7b

http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/courses01/rrtw/Hashmi.htm

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/10/09/explainer-what-hizb-ut-tahrir



Thursday, October 02, 2014

Let's be accurate

James Campbell of the Herald-Sun is speculating about who might become
Victorian Liberal leader if the Napthine government is voted out of office in the November 29 Victorian state election. Already the Liberals have narrowed the field down to two possible options; Treasurer Michael O'Brien, and Planning Minister Matthew Guy.

O'Brien went to Marcellin College, a private Catholic school, and then graduated from Melbourne University, and studied law. Prior to entering politics, he worked as a solicitor and barrister. Meanwhile, Guy went to Montmorency High School. Campbell might care to know that it was actually renamed Montmorency Secondary College when he attended there. After high school he went on La Trobe University, graduating from there with a Bachelor of Arts in 1995.

Campbell claims that aside from positions at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Victorian Farmers Federation, Guy has never had a real job outside of politics. That's not true. He leaves out part of his work history. I know for a fact that early in his working life, he had a part time job as a driveway attendant at a suburban service station. Doesn't that count? I pointed this out in a letter to the editor which was not printed.

I can't comment on Michael O'Brien, as I don't know him. Some politicians are career politicians with little grasp of the real world. Matthew Guy isn't one of them.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/the-circling-has-started-as-libs-look-at-leaders/story-fni0fh8t-1227077048175