“Its all about sex”

That claim seems to be the latest tactic to be adopted by the Secularist Army in the fight over the fundamental human right to religious freedom, if yesterday’s Sunday Age was anything to go by.

First there was the opinion piece posing as a news item by Melissa Fyfe, “Religious groups to regain bias rights”. I can hardly recall having ever read such a biased piece of news reporting – even for The Sunday Age, this piece set a new low point in journalistic standards.

Then came the full one and half page (and The Sunday Age has BIG pages) diatribe by David Marr “Faiths rule on sex from bathroom to bedroom”. If the first piece was one of the most biased pieces of journalism I have ever seen, this must be the most self-indulgent. For his own personal reasons, David Marr thinks that his right to express his own sexual preferences in public are greater than the right of religious persons to live out their fundamental spiritual convictions in public.

The only reason a piece like Marr’s could even be taken serious today is because we live in an age in which many people really do think – or have been told to think – that the right to freedom of sexual expression is more fundamental than the right to freedom of religious belief. The irony of the whole thing is that the Secularists are accusing Christians of being the ones who are obsessed with sex, when the boot is clearly on the other foot.

[Nb. In the poll at the bottom of the David Marr article on the internet, the question asked is:

Should religious-based organisations who receive taxpayer funding be allowed to sack people, or refuse to hire them, because of their sexuality?

Thus far the results are Yes 25% No 75% Total votes: 1685.

You still have time to vote, if you don’t mind being forced to express yourself as a bigot just so as to protect your fundamental human right to religious freedom!]

From one point of view though, the Secularists have already conceded an important point. They have conceded – for the time being and however much it galls them – that religious groups have the right to demand a certain sexual mores of at least one category within their employment, namely official religious leaders such as priests and rabbis. What they are attempting to do, however, is to tell us when and in what circumstances our religious beliefs are important or not. That is the real issue here. These oh-so-tolerant determinators of public opinion want to seize the power to be our religious teachers, and to tell us when our demand for morality is reasonable or not.

Just to pick a Scriptural injunction to Christian morality out of the hat, lets take a look at 1 Timothy 1:9-11:

9 This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, 10 fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

One suspects that David Marr would have no problem with a Christian organisation sacking someone who was a murderer, guilty of patricide or matricide, or a slave trader. Even non-religious companies will sack someone for being a liar or a perjurer. It is clear too why St Paul said that those who do these things are “godless and sinful” – because they are “contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed of God”.

But of all these things, David Marr and Co. want to tell us we should exchange this “sound teaching” for a new one, one that no longer sees the practice of “fornication” or “sodomy” as “contrary to the sound teaching” we have received.

I submit that it isn’t the Church that’s obsessed with sex.

David Marr and Melissa Fyfe and their ilk could learn a bit from the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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33 Responses to “Its all about sex”

  1. Paul G says:

    The debates about gay rights are often a proxy argument about extra marital sex in general. The fact is that a much, much larger group of people don’t follow Christ’s teaching about sex outside marriage than follow teaching about gay sex. Whenever gay sex is brought up, we should get back to the real argument about faithful use of sex as a part of marriage as we know it (up to now.)

    I apologise in advance for my next comment and I hope it is not judgemental about the people involved……
    I saw a TV report tonight about an Anglican church in England supporting gay marriage. Is there any wonder there is confusion in the Anglican church when the first and second in line to be head of the Established Church are (apparently) unapologetic adulterers and fornicators?
    The sooner the Anglican church is disestablished, the better for them, in my opinion.

  2. PM says:

    If we don’t resist this we’ll end up like the UK and Canada where buggery is now an established religion, the doctines and clerisy of which it is illegal to contradict.

  3. Tony says:

    Beyond the hyperbole, where do you draw the line here, David?

    Let’s say a very fundamentalist Muslim school now opens in Victoria and, like any other private school, draws on government funding. It claims a certain attitude to women is core to its faith, so it will employ very few women and when it does, they are required to wear the full hijab and are not allowed to teach (their jobs are always non-professional). Further, the school doesn’t allow enrolments of girls after high school.

    Is it OK for the community to say to the school that it musn’t discriminate in the employment of teachers based on gender? Is it OK for the community to say that girls have a right to education beyond the primary years?

    • Gareth says:

      Not sure if youre example helps here Tony – the fact is that most, if not all organisations have some sort of criteria or protocol surrounding employers upholding their basid ethos.

      I am not sure why people expect religious based organisations to be any different, within reason.

      • Tony says:

        So, are you saying that you’d support such a Muslim school and their policies direct to women and girls, Gareth?

        • Gareth says:

          I think you will find such schools only exist in your imagination, Tony.

          The moral of the discussion was that religious based schools, like every organisation, have a right to have a certain ethos to uphold when its comes to its employees.

          • Tony says:

            The following link is from the Al-Hidayah Islamic School in Perth: http://www.islamicschool.com.au/i/23_class.jpg

            It shows the female students and the teachers wearing hijabs. Now, I have no reason to believe this school is anything but a good school serving the Islamic community and the wider Perth community well.

            But the notion that a school like the one I suggested — perhaps funded by Wasabi Muslims, for example — is beyond imagination may be the case now, but it’s possible in the future.

            Does it have the right to impose rules like the ones I’ve suggested and still seek government funding like other schools?

            What I’m getting at is your phrase ‘within reason’. Who’s reason?

  4. matthias says:

    I am in agreeement with Tony on his broader views. I think that as Christians when it comes to employment issues ,we need to consider the fact that people need to work and thus be able to live,and eat and have accomodation . Regardless of their gender,marital status and sexuality. However when it comes to issues of actual faith practice-the gay priests,and same sex marriages then faith as handed down to us by the Apostles needs to overule the legislative or community attitudes.

  5. Billy the Kid says:

    I am a liberal and non-practicing Catholic and I read the whole of the David Marr article in the Sunday Age and I found it enlightened and reasonable. Religious freedom, like all rights, has limits. Equality between people is a higher right than the right to religious freedom, and therefore religious freedom is limited or is made secondary by the rights of everybody to equality.

    The church is a grossly conservative institution, buttressed by a mode of governance that can only be described as morbidly moribund. What the church needs a thorough grounding in modern notions of fairness, justice, and human rights. It could also do with a twenty second ecumenical council, which should democratise the church through the introduction of a Catholic parliament.

    What is also most opportune would be the robust acceptance of modern sciences such as genetics, biology, psychology, sociology, sexology, and psychiatry. This should lead to a wholesale revision of the magisterium’s teaching on sexuality. When these things happen, nobody will make a complaint about David Marr’s philosophical position.

    • Gareth says:

      Billy the Kid: The church is a grossly conservative institution.

      Gareth: I wouldn’t believe everything you read or underestimate us, young son.

  6. Peter says:

    What would have been surprising David is if either of these articles was in any way objective or balanced.
    Fyfe is a fascist lightweight who lives by the motto”you are entitled to your opinion as long as it is the same as mine”.She is currently the state political reporter for the Age.
    Previously she was environmental reporter and on more than one occasion said that global warming sceptics should be banned and given no coverage in the media.
    So much for open debate.
    David Marr is regularly referred to as an intellectual when he is no more an intellectual than Elmer Fudd.He is however,a genuine bigot.In 1999 or 2000 he wrote a book entitled “The High Price of Heaven”which was a blistering attack on the catholic church.It was mostly a rag-bag of of lies and half truths.
    Little if anything written by either Fyfe or Marr should be taken seriously.

    • Tony says:

      I think that accusing someone of bias is a little like ‘casting stones’, Peter, in that ‘let him who is without bias, be the first to accuse the other of bias’. It seems to me that ro claim someone is so biased that ‘Little if anything written by … should be taken seriously’ is, itself, a testament to the bias of the accuser. It’s even worse when such an argument has ad hominem as its foundation.

      We are all biased and all have an amazing talent for seeing it in others while ignoring it in ourselves. That’s why it’s so important to stick to an argument about issues raised rather than excursions about the bias of the author.

      This post, dedicated as it is to pointing out the bias of others, opens with ‘… the latest tactic to be adopted by the Secularist Army …’. Secularist Army? Such an opening immediately positions your oppenent with a tag which flavours anything that follows. Is there any such thing as a secular army? No. Does that matter? I think it does if a theme of your argument is against bias.

      The antedote for bias is not counter-bias, it’s balance. Bias and counter-bias are easy and satisfying. Balance is hard work and often doesn’t provide you with that rush of self-righteous ‘so take that you _____!’.

      My question, ‘Where do we draw the line?’ is an attempt to get beyond the bias. We live in a secular, democratic society. Isn’t it a fact of life that the ‘line’ is drawn by the often clumsy mechanisms of that society? We, by virtue of our citizenship, all have a right to engage with that process. How do we do that in a way that advances a strong argument without contributing to the stone throwing?

  7. Susan Peterson says:

    I think religious groups should not have to hire anyone, to be the parish secretary, to teach in a school, even to be a janitor, whose behavior offends their religious beliefs. Of course, I also think they should not be taking money from the government.

    And yes, this applies to the Muslim school as well. No way of getting around it that I can see. But there is nothing wrong with writing immigration laws to discourage the increase of the Muslim population. I can’t off hand think of anything else to prevent their spread which can be done.

    Susan Pterson

    • Tony says:

      There’s a good example for you Gareth, one that exists and is not imaginary.

      In Australia it’s a non-negotiable secular ‘value’ that children must attend school up to the age of 15. If a Muslim community or another religious group demanded that they should be allowed not to educate girls beyond the age of 8, how could we argue against it?

      • Gareth says:

        Everything depends on the circumstances Tons.

        I for one doubt that the example you used is a real situation in Australia, but if it is I feel you are unnessarily using an extreme example to prove a point.

        The fact is it should not be within reason for a religious school, like any other organisation (funded or not by outside sources) to have the right to decide criteria for who it wants to employ.

        May I reverse the situation, imagine if a totally government funded health organisation (e.g. Women’s ‘Health’ Centres) that provides counselling to women considering abortion and it was part of their basic ethos that employees will toe the line when it comes to the organisations basic position on abortion, and a devout Catholic who was perfectly qualified applied and claimed discrimantion because they were not employed due to not being able to fulfil the duty of being open to that organisation’s criteria for employees?

        The fact is the Catholic in this case can’t play dumb, the organisation is within its reasons of upholding a strigent criteria for who it chooses to employ.

        • Tony says:

          Everything depends on the circumstances Tons.

          Circumstances Garth? Is that the patter of relativism in the distance?

          I for one doubt that the example you used is a real situation in Australia, but if it is I feel you are unnessarily using an extreme example to prove a point.

          Damn straight I am. That’s what we do to test a proposition like ‘within reason’. What is ‘within reason’ for you may be quite different to what is ‘within reason’ for someone who is inclined towards a more extreme end of their faith. ‘Within reason’ may be something quite different too for someone who is not a member of a faith community. All are citizens. All have a right to contribute to our society’s version of ‘within reason’.

          May I reverse the situation, imagine if a totally government funded health organisation (e.g. Women’s ‘Health’ Centres) that provides counselling to women considering abortion and it was part of their basic ethos that employees will toe the line when it comes to the organisations basic position on abortion, and a devout Catholic who was perfectly qualified applied and claimed discrimantion because they were not employed due to not being able to fulfil the duty of being open to that organisation’s criteria for employees?

          Good example. Does that organisation have the right to impose its view on its employee or even refuse to employ them? If we say it is OK for us to do that, then we are not in a position to object to others who do it for different reasons.

          The fact is the Catholic in this case can’t play dumb, the organisation is within its reasons of upholding a strigent criteria for who it chooses to employ.

          So I guess you’re saying that as long as it is within its reasons it will be OK. So if an Amish-like community set up here, you’d support there requirement to limit education for girls up to 8 years old as long as it is demonstrably within ‘its reasons’?

          • Gareth says:

            Tony: Circumstances Garth? Is that the patter of relativism in the distance?

            Gareth: Not necessarily. The circumstances in which the right to ‘religious freedom’ may be in conflict with the common good may depend on a very minute matter or differ from community to community or society to society.

            For example, on the debate about Muslim women wearing religious clothing in public, I personally always found it within a person’s right to wear a head covering, but would understand how the Australian community would find a full body covering to be taking it a bit too far.

            Yet in a full Muslim community, there would be no issue.

            What offends the common good depends on circumstances and the common mores of that individual society or organisation.

            Tony: Good example. Does that organisation have the right to impose its view on its employee or even refuse to employ them? If we say it is OK for us to do that, then we are not in a position to object to others who do it for different reasons.

            Gareth: But then like most things – reverse the situation as it someone else or the other that is objecting to ‘us’ here.

            If THEY say it is ok for them to impose a criteria for who they employ, surely then with the roles reversed we have the same right or at the very least have a basic social norm that employees that fit the general ethos of the community will apply.

            Tony: So I guess you’re saying that as long as it is within its reasons it will be OK. So if an Amish-like community set up here, you’d support there requirement to limit education for girls up to 8 years old as long as it is demonstrably within ‘its reasons’?

            Gareth: But there you go, it wouldn’t be within reason., but the example used in the discussed article is within reason.

            • Tony says:

              But there you go, it wouldn’t be within reason., but the example used in the discussed article is within reason.

              This cuts to the chase, Gareth. What’s ‘within reason’? As you suggest it depends on the community. If our community says, for example, that gay marriage is OK, then as you put it ‘the common mores of that individual society or organisation’ can make that decision.

              How do we, as a secular democratic society determine ‘within reason’ or our ‘common mores’? Effectively, that is when it comes to making laws, it’s expressed through the politicians we elect. We seek to influence them by all sorts of discussions and, eventually, our vote.

              In Victoria the emphasis has changed to a more conservative view because they were voted in. Later it may change back to a more liberal view. In the meantime, there is a pretty consistent trend towards a wide acceptance of gay marriage. If that continues it could rightfully be characterised as what this society determines is ‘within reason’.

              Note: I’m not talking about the morality of the issue as expressed by the church, I’m talking about the broader communities attitude and how that influences notions of ‘within reason’.

            • Gareth says:

              Tony: In the meantime, there is a pretty consistent trend towards a wide acceptance of gay marriage.

              Gareth: If you listened to Bob Brown, yes. The average Australian, not quite sure and I am not being biased here.

              Don’t believe the hype.

            • Tony says:

              If you listened to Bob Brown, yes. The average Australian, not quite sure and I am not being biased here.

              OK, you’re not being biased. So what non-biased data do you have to back up your assertions about the ‘average Australian’?

              Here are some examples that would indicate a trend to a more liberal view:

              1. Attitudes towards homosexuality and family law reform for same-sex couples are measured by Roy Morgan Research’s Single Source survey, which polls about 1400 people each week. Among a raft of questions, it asks if respondents believe homosexuality is immoral.

              The proportion believing it is immoral has fallen from 36 per cent in 2001 to 27 per cent at present.

              Source: http://www.smh.com.au/national/country-divided-as-support-for-gay-marriage-varies-wildly-20101114-17sq4.html
              2.
              THE majority of Australians believe same-sex couples should be able to marry, a poll has found.

              The national poll of 1100 people aged 16 and over found 57 per cent supported same-sex marriage.

              The poll, by Galaxy, said 71 per cent believed same-sex de facto couples should be entitled to the same legal rights as heterosexual de facto couples.

              Source: http://www.news.com.au/most-australians-back-same-sex-marriage/story-e6frfkp9-1111113794960#ixzz1E7YSGRu5

              3. This survey shows that more people support same-sex marriage, than oppose it.

              Source: http://www.nswccl.org.au/news/show_pr.php?relNum=3&relYear=2008

              So, a more liberal attitude to issues like gay marriage is the trend and therefore show us what Australians think is ‘within reason’.

            • Gareth says:

              Sure there are more losers that believe the propaganda fed to them, but it is safe to say that there is and would be strong enough opposition in Australia for it not to gain any real momentum.

              This is why even your friend Julia Gillard is opposed – she knows it is not a winner.

              The real people of Australia just wounldn’t buy it and not to mention as people mature, they are more likely to see the follies of their ways.

            • Gareth says:

              P.S: ‘Polls’ like this can be unreliable.

              Anyone can say they support something when they are simply rang up and asked something on the phone, but when the realities set in results may differ vastly.

              This is why ‘exit polls’ are generally pretty unreliable.

              Another example is euthanasa, I have read countless articles how 80 per cent of Australian supposedly support it, but when it comes to the crunch on the real realities of euthanasia or when a question in a survey is worded in a different manner, I am sure results would be pretty different.

            • Tony says:

              P.S: ‘Polls’ like this can be unreliable.

              They can be. But they’re nowhere near as unreliable as an indvidual who, without any evidence at all, insists he knows what ‘the real people of Australia’ think.

            • Gareth says:

              Ever been on a holiday to north-west Tasmania or wesretrn Sydney Tons?

              Well if you choose to drop in by to your local pub, perhaps you could gauge the local opinion on ‘gay marriage’ and see what the everyday Australian really has to say on the topic as oppose to latte-drinkers and trendies that the media would have us believe is the voice of Australia.

            • Tony says:

              Ever been on a holiday to north-west Tasmania or wesretrn Sydney Tons?

              Yes I have, Garp.

              Well if you choose to drop in by to your local pub, perhaps you could gauge the local opinion on ‘gay marriage’ and see what the everyday Australian really has to say on the topic as oppose to latte-drinkers and trendies that the media would have us believe is the voice of Australia.

              And you subjective speculation about that is your evidence? I rest my case!

  8. Susan Peterson says:

    Girls have a right to be offered education by the state. But religious groups do not have to accept it for the girls of their faith. One the girls are the age of majority, they should be able to choose more education for themselves, and should be protected from forceable retaliation by the community, however.
    In the US the Amish do not educate past 8th grade, and they are exempt from compulsory education laws.
    Susan Peterson

  9. Susan Peterson says:

    In the US the government does NOT fund religious schools. In a few states it provides transportation or textbooks in subjects such as math to religious schools, but not in all states. In no states does it actually give money to schools or pay for the building or salaries. People who want to send their children to religious schools have to pay tuition, as well as paying school taxes to support the public schools.
    Susan Peterson

    • Gareth says:

      In Australia, the situation is a bit more complex Susan.

      You see the Government does provide somesort of funding (Catholic bishops in the 1950s waged a full-on war to win the right for it) to some religious schools.

      The weird catch is, particularly for Catholic schools, who are smack bang in the middle, if the government removed this funding, the cost of those educated in half-Government half-self funded Catholic schools moving to public schools would probably send the Government bankrupt.

      So the Government has an onus to keep on providing some sort of funding to Catholic schools and Catholic schools who have middle of the range fees for enrolnment have an onus to keep on accepting government funding, hence their fees would be beyond the reach of the thousands of thousands parents that send their children there for a cheap, ‘middle-road’ private education that is not the domain of the rich, but neither a dirt cheap education either.

      Hence we have a situation where Catholic schools have to be nice and keep a certain face with the Government in order to keep on recieving funding and the Government has to be nice to Catholic schools and allow some sort of religious freedom, hence if it stepped on its toes or removed complete funding it would soon find thousands of children on its doorsteps wanting an education that it can’t fund.

      When debates such at the above spring up, everyone is between a rock and a hard place.

  10. Louise says:

    The irony of the whole thing is that the Secularists are accusing Christians of being the ones who are obsessed with sex, when the boot is clearly on the other foot.

    They are not very self-aware. Or else they are even less reasonable than we might think.

    It amuses me no end that “sex sells” just about everything, yet the catechism is devoted to any number of things apart from sex.

  11. Louise says:

    What we need here and elsewhere is a clear view on what order of priority we place human rights and even to establish those things which are human rights.

    Surely, the most basic right is the right to live.
    Now, is “equality” a right? I don’t think so, but if so, does it necessarily come before the right to worship? What about a right to free speech? Does it exist? What about a right to die? Can that be squared with the right to live?

    Can someone, somewhere give a clear view on this?

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