Daniel Andrews is not a state premier so much as he is an engineer – a social engineer who is using the office of premier to impose his worldview on a depressed and dispirited populace.
While punch-drunk Victorians are still getting their heads around the controversial Pandemic Management Bill, which is currently before Victoria’s Upper House, Dictator Dan is already salivating over his next assault on their freedoms.
In the lead up to Christmas — Daniel Andrews has nothing if not a superb sense of timing — the state parliament is expected to vote on legislation that will severely curtail the religious freedom of Victorians.
And why not? What else is a tyrant to do when he has already locked citizens in their homes, shot at them with rubber bullets, fined their children for not wearing masks and expanded his powers to the point where even Xi Jinping would blush?
The proposed Equal Opportunity Act (Religious Exemptions) Bill will rob religious organisations of the right to manage their activities according to their faith and conscience. In other words, it will neuter them.
Its impact is best explained and illustrated by looking at schools.
Demographics have given Danandrewstan a thriving non-government school sector. There are the grand old private schools that retain some form of religious affiliation, their Catholic cousins, the low-fee Christian and Catholic schools across the suburbs and regional growth areas and well-established Jewish and Islamic schools.
Up until now, all of these schools have been free to employ staff they believe will best uphold their values and ethos.
Under Andrews’ equal opportunity legislation, they will face what is being called an “inherent requirements” test — a measure that will remove this right unless the school is looking to employ a principal or a religious education teacher.
In other words, unless a teacher at a faith-based school is specifically teaching the faith — rather than say maths or geography or history — the school cannot specify that the teacher must be an adherent or at least supportive of their particular faith.
It seems like Daniel Andrews fundamentally misunderstands the nature of religion and religious education. Religious faith is not simply taught, it is lived out. And religious education insists that every subject — whether maths or science or history – is taught within a Christian worldview.
But it is tempting to think Daniel Andrews understands the nature of religion and religious education very well. Perhaps he well knows that a religious school with irreligious staff is a hollow shell. One less thing standing between individuals and the all-controlling State.
The legislation raises the possibility that the majority of a faith-based school’s staff could end up being agnostic, or even members of a different faith. And what becomes of a faith-based school where many of the staff don’t base their life on that faith? Well, of course, it ceases to exist except in name only – a little like democracy in Victoria.
But to take the whole matter to its ridiculous conclusion – and one thing we have learned in the past 18 months is that the ‘ridiculous conclusion’ should never be ruled out in Victoria — a Mao-suited Roz Ward could end up in front of a class at a Christian college. Or a Hizb ut-Tahrir member working for the establishment of the Khilafah could find himself teaching in a Jewish school if suitably credentialled for the post.
Their rejection could well result in prosecution by state government authorities — no doubt cheered on by the Age and secular tele-evangelists on the ABC and The Project.
Moreover, it raises the situation where bureaucrats and courts may well end up being asked to rule what is religious and what is not when it comes to teaching in a religious school. And could there be any greater intrusion on religious rights than a state bureaucrat defining the terms of your religion for you?
But we are only using schools as an example. The same laws would apply to the myriad of social services, hospitals, aged care facilities and welfare organisations with a religious affiliation.
It is not inconceivable that, in Dan Andrews’ Victopia, the Salvation Army band playing on the street corner could wind up looking like marchers from the Mardi Gras. After all, they’re just playing music. There is no inherent requirement that the trumpeter playing Amazing Grace really believes it.
And why should he?
In Victoria there will soon be nothing to believe in, other than the State.
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