Christian Nation? Not so much

At the publication of the last census I made a prediction; that by 2021, the number of Australians who say they have no religion would be the plurality – the largest single group.

As it turns out, I was wrong; we are ahead of schedule.

(Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006, 2007, 2012, 2017a, 2017b, 2017c)

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Don’t Bash the Fash; objections to punching Nazis

Alice More: Arrest him!
Sir Thomas More: Why, what has he done?
Margaret More: He’s bad!
Sir Thomas More: There is no law against that.
Will Roper: There is! God’s law!
Sir Thomas More: Then God can arrest him.
Alice: While you talk, he’s gone!
Sir Thomas More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
Will Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Will Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.
Robert O. Bolt, A Man for All Seasons, 1960

I have to admit, when I saw Richard Spencer get punched while explaining his Pepe the Frog badge to a reporter, I smirked; inside me there is a kid who giggles at that sort of thing. I’m pretty sure part of me never stopped laughing at the Road Runner’s antics.

Then I scrolled further on my Twitter feed, and was disturbed by the sheer amount of glee people were displaying. Yes, it’s Richard Spencer, a carbuncle on the backside of humanity, and yes, he’s got what Reddit calls a punchable face, but come on guys; aren’t we just a little disturbed at that act of political violence in the full glare of the cameras?

Apparently not; since then I’ve seen a lot of tweets and blog posts and opinion pieces that are condoning, celebrating, or even encouraging such acts. Disturbing, to put it mildly.

Before we begin:

  • No, I’m not a Nazi, or a fascist;
  • No, I’m not a sympathiser with either;
  • Yes, I think they have the right to free speech;
  • Yes, this includes speech I find repugnant and awful;
  • Yes, I know there are other issues in the world, but I’m not talking about them right now;
  • Yes, I am aware of those cases where violent protest did have a fortuitous outcome – such as the Stonewall Riots – that will be dealt with below;
  • Yes, I know that sometimes “say shit, get hit” applies – that doesn’t mean we should be celebrating or encouraging it;
  • No, this isn’t a complete list of my objections, but it is pretty thorough; and
  • As always, all the sources used here are listed at the very bottom under the heading “Sources”, including hyperlinks where available.

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Choices: Regarding businesses that object to serving homosexual customers

There’s a long-running debate about businesses discriminating against gay customers and whether or not they should be allowed to. My position is this:

If a shop doesn’t want to serve me because I’m gay, or won’t do things like cater or provide the flowers for a gay wedding, OK. Fine. I can cope; there are other businesses out there that will (and the beauty of our free market system is that we can start such businesses ourselves where it’s likely to be an issue).

BUT there is a condition; those businesses who want to do this must display this information in a prominent place – like in the front window – where it cannot be missed by any prospective customer. It must be displayed on the front page of their website and in a prominent place on their social media presences; again, in such a way that it cannot possibly be overlooked or missed. Consumers should be fully informed about their spending choices – prospective gay customers should be able to not waste their time with a business that won’t serve them. Likewise, straight customers who’d rather not give their money to such businesses should be able to have their spending decisions fully informed. Some businesses may go broke as a result, but that’s too bad – they hate making money, after all.

This system, of ensuring the consumer is fully informed of their spending choices, is called “capitalism”. Let the Invisible Hand of the Market do as it will.

PS (added 31 January 2016); the above does not apply to civil celebrants – they, when performing marriages, are officers of the State. They are public servants. If they object to officiating lawful marriages because of personal or religious reasons, they should resign. When you are a public servant, you leave your personal views at home and execute your duties to the best of your ability – if you can’t do that, find another job.

PPS (9 February 2017); the twitter user @Shoq has let me know that they object to the stance I have in this post – that I want to “normalise discrimination”. I do not; I do have ethical objections to forcing people to act in ways that are contrary to their religious views when the exercise of those views doesn’t cause appreciable harm to others (even if I consider those views to be awful and stupid). As I note above; a Christian refusing to provide me with flowers for my wedding would be a mild inconvenience, not “harm” – and you cannot expect me to believe that the wedding industry is so bereft of businesses that care more about money that I wouldn’t be able to find alternatives. Plus if they do it after I’ve paid for it, that’s breach of contract.

The primary issue I have with compelling Christians, who are acting as private citizens and not public servants, to act against their religious views is that the same rationales can also be used against other groups. The Fathers of Federation put section 116 in because they wanted an American-style protection against the State interfering with religion and religious belief (the success of this is up for debate); compelling Christians, when they aren’t acting as public servants, to do things their religious beliefs are not compatible with seems to me to violate the free exercise clause of s.116 – and it sets a precedent that could be used to, for example, ban Halal food (as a certain Senator from Queensland and her party are very keen on doing).

Note that I view people who, e.g., provide medical care to the community to be a form of public servant here; in this country such things are subsidised by the State after all. Same goes for education; if you want your Christian school to discriminate against same-sex-attracted students, stop pocketing taxpayer funds. Indeed, that extends to all such endeavours; if my taxpayer dollars are paying for it, you don’t get to hide behind your personal private beliefs. Set them aside, or give us our money back. No, I am talking exclusively about private businesses.

And the objective is simple; if you’re going to discriminate against me because of my sexual orientation, I want to know about it. I want my friends and family to know too. I want everyone to know. And then we can give our money, and organise others to give their money, to your competitors.

My stance here is not set in stone; if @Shoq, or someone else, argues me around, there’ll be another update to this post reflecting this.

To be honest, this is a pure thought exercise for me. The issue is done and dusted for us.

Seven Thoughts on the Centrelink Debt Debacle

As the steaming heap of institutional ineptitude that is the Centrelink Debt Debacle continues to upend itself across Australia for yet another week, with no end in sight, a few things have occurred to me:

  1. I am so incredibly happy I was never able to qualify for, and thus have never received, any form of benefit from Centrelink;
  2. Some of the people that have received debt collection notices are now qualified and practicing lawyers – I suspect there are pretty good odds that Centrelink will find itself in court over this;
  3. Speaking of making enemies, going after the elderly was a Very Bad Idea – they have a lot of time on their hands, the heartstrings of their voting children and grandchildren, and are already inclined to grumpiness;
  4. As the experience of using MyGov continues to be unfavourably compared to getting a napalm enema or your fingernails pulled, this reinforces my decision that there is no way on God’s green earth, or any other planet, that will I ever willingly touch that website;
  5. I can’t decide if the Government spokesmen defending this are drunk, incompetent, being beamed in from another reality, lying, or a combination of the above;
  6. It’s too early to say what effect this will have on this Government’s prospects and chances at the polls, but any effect it does have will not be positive; and
  7. The 2016 Census, the ATO crash, and now this? I’m honestly wondering; when it comes to computers, can you people get anything right?

Logically Indefensible; why freedom of religion requires acceptance of same-sex marriage

In 2008 a CNN iReport entitled Why Defence of Marriage is Indefensible was written. In 15 points of dispassionate, clinical logic, the piece dissected opposition to marriage equality, and found it to be completely indefensible. Sadly the original is no longer available, and I neglected to make an archival copy before it vanished.

This post is based on that iReport, and has been in the drafts folder for many months now; in it, I apply that argument to the Australian context, although I take 19 points. The post has been updated to reflect the current situation.

First, a note; civil unions as a valid alternative to marriage have been rejected as a failed experiment (Australian Marriage Equality 2009) – as the Americans would say, “separate is not equal,” (Sorenson 2012) not is it acceptable; this stance is supported by clinical evidence (Wilkinson and Kitzinger 2005).

And now, let us begin.

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Helsinki and Canberra: A Brief Follow-Up

As a follow-up to last night’s piece on the Finnish vs. Australian electoral systems, I was asked if I thought Australia was over-governed.

My short answer is; kind of.
The long answer is; more poorly-organised than over-governed.

Let’s pretend for a moment that I have the absolute power to reorganise the Federation as I see fit; here’s what I’d do.

First, I’d redraw the boundaries of the States and Territories; there’d be more of them, and they’d be drawn according to both the current population distribution, and likely corridors of population growth. According to, well, everyone I know who lives there, the State Government of New South Wales frankly only really cares about an area centred on Newcastle, Sydney, and Wollongong; so let’s let them focus on that, and shear away the rest, redistributing it based on regional areas of focus. Same deal for all the rest (having Albury-Wodonga split asunder by a state border is rather silly, no?), with the possible exception of Tasmania.

Second, the municipal councils would all go. All of them. Every one. What would replace them is the ACT’s system – where the territory government has the functions, responsibilities, and powers (ignore the federal relation for a moment) of a state government and of a municipal ones. The regional government would look after e.g., both garbage collection and education. It seems to work quite smoothly in Canberra.

Third, to ensure that outlying areas aren’t neglected, each one of the legislatures of these new regional governments would be elected on the same system as the ACT’s – the Hare-Clark proportional system, with several multi-member electorates ensuring that all parts of the region have a voice in the legislature.

At the Federal level, the apportionment of the House of Representatives would be the same – single-member constituencies allocated by population, with each region getting a certain minimum (at least two). The number of Senators would need to be recalculated, but I’d either keep the principle behind the Senate the same (equal representation for each region so that the lower-population ones don’t get screwed) or I’d make it a single nation-wide multi-member constituency. Voting systems would be unchanged (I like the single transferable vote as well as instant run-off voting), as would the means of forming government.

An important caveat: this is just something I’ve sketched up in notes on my phone during lunch, a thought exercise. I’d need to do quite a bit of research to check how feasible it would be (political considerations aside), and what the effects on the economy would be.

This is, of course, utter fantasy; the States will never consent to being carved up like this (well, Tasmania might – because it gets to watch), and if I recall the Constitution correctly, they have to agree to any such thing. But I doubt I’m the only one who has considered this idea.