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Australia unhappy with Islam: The Church of England Newspaper, November 29, 2013 November 28, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Islam, Multiculturalism.
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Islam is not a religion of peace in the minds of the majority of Australians, a survey conducted on behalf of the Q Society of Australia reports. The survey undertaken by Roy Morgan Research Ltd shows indicates a majority of Australians believe the assimilation of Muslim immigrants is not working as 70 per cent believe the country is not a better place because of Islam.

The survey, completed in late October, found a majority (53 per cent) of Australians want full face coverings banned from public spaces and 50.2 per cent want Islamic sharia law banned all together.

Older Australians and those who voted for the governing Liberal/National parties coalition were helding harsher views of Islam than did Green party supporters or younger voters. However, only 15 per cent of Australians think Islam and terrorism are not related, while proposals by secularist and multi-cultural advocates to cancel state Christmas, Easter or ANZAC Day celebrations in order not to offend non-Christians is endorsed by only 3.5 per cent of those surveyed.

Q Society spokesman Andrew Horwood said the poll results validate in their opinion the need for “new strategies and policies. While followers of most religions seem to get along well, Australian politicians must acknowledge Islam is not just another religion and the growing concern is not a fringe issue,” he said.

The Q Society of Australia is a civil rights advocacy group founded in 2010 whose members are “concerned about the socio-political problems associated with the rise of Islam and sharia law in Australia; as well as religiously-motivated human rights abuses against religious minorities in many OIC-member countries,” its website states.

Sydney Morning Herald has a problem with religious freedom: Get Religion, January 17, 2013 January 17, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Politics, Press criticism.
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It is only two weeks into the new year, but I believe we may have a winner in the worst newspaper article of 2013 contest. A Sydney Morning Herald story entitled “Anti-gay rights to stay” is so awful, I am just about at a loss for words. Were I to say this story was anti-Christian, boorish, ignorant, and aggressively offensive I would only be scratching the surface. It takes a non-story — Prime Minister Julia Gillard will maintain religious freedoms in the new bill of rights under construction — and turns it into a gay bashing extravaganza.

It begins:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has assured religious groups they will have the ”freedom” under a new rights bill to discriminate against homosexuals and others they deem sinners, according to the head of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Under current law, faith-based organisations, including schools and hospitals, can refuse to hire those they view as sinners if they consider it ”is necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of adherents of that religion”.

Notice the quotation marks around the word “freedom”? What is that telling us? Read further into the story and you will find that there is nothing here other than the reporter’s indignation. There is no story. The prime minister has assured the leader of a lobbying group that the current rules governing the “freedom of religion” will not be changed. The SMH finds this deeply offensive, writing:

Discrimination by religious organisations affects thousands of Australians. The faiths are big employers, and the Catholic Church in particular is one of Australia’s largest private employers. They rely on government funding but because of their religious status are allowed to vet the sexual practices of potential employees in ways that would be illegal for non-religious organisations.

The story flow resumes with assurances given by two government ministers that there will be no change in religious freedom laws, followed by comments from church groups. (As an aside, I find the comments somewhat suspect. Knowing some of those who have been quoted, I believe their words have been misconstrued such that the issue of providing services has been conflated with hiring decisions. E.g., they do not discriminate in the provision of services but do reserve the right to employ like minded people.)

The article then brings forward a voice to support its editorial slant, and closes with a quote from the Attorney General that is crafted so as to make her look the fool. She is quoted as being in favor of expanding gay rights at the very end of the story after she states at the top of the piece she supports religious freedom expemptions– or in the SMH’s worldview — condoning anti-gay practices. This is a journalist’s way of calling someone a hypocrite without having to use the word.

Where do I begin? This article is so bad, so puerile, it could appear in The Onion or other comic websites as a farce — a caricature of biased hack journalism. Let’s take the word “sinner”. An emotional word not used by the prime minister or the Australian Christian Lobby spokesman but one inserted by the SMH into the narrative. It may give the story a crackle, but it also reveals the ignorance of the author of the words he is using.

Need I explain that religious organizations hire sinners every day? Yes, the SMH may have meant to say that religious groups do not want to hire particular types of sinner, but having decided to be clever, the SMH must take responsibility for its failure to intelligently use words.  Any editor who has half a brain should have known better than to allow such junk to go out under the newspaper’s name.

On a deeper level, however, the stridency of this article — its eagerness to defame and demean religious groups — suggests the decision to push a non story was deliberate, or the newspaper has been captured by a gaggle of gormless hacks unable to grasp the distinctions between unlawful discrimination and making hiring decisions based upon criteria shaped by church doctrine and discipline.

The sad thing about this SMH story is that it is not an outlier. A well written article entitled “The future of the press” by Keith Windschuttle in this month’s issue of The New Criterion looks at the reasons for the decline of the major newspapers in the English speaking world. Drawing upon William McGowan’s 2010 book Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of The New York Times Means for America, Windschuttle reports the collapse of the newspaper has been economic, political and existential.

McGowan makes it clear that the Times’ shift to the left was actually led by its publisher since 1991, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., who enshrined within his organization the ideology of the 1960s generation which he shared: radical advocacy, identity politics, and New Age management theory.

Windschuttle explains the decline as the result of “staff capture”.

But even on newspapers without a countercultural proprietor, there is an underlying problem. The bureaucracies needed to run daily newspapers are susceptible to staff capture. In the last thirty years, on those newspaper companies not controlled by traditional owners but run by boards composed mainly of the biggest stockholders, the autonomy that is essential for journalists and editors to do their job has been exploited by the Left. Once they reached a critical mass in an organization, leftists recruited others sharing their political and cultural beliefs. They proceeded to impose the cultural values of the Left onto the entire editorial output. This did not prove to be a successful business model because it estranged at least half their potential readership—the conservative half—guaranteeing their circulations would continue to fall.

What has been true for the Times has also been true of Fairfax Media’s Sydney Morning Herald. He writes:

One of its former journalists, Miranda Devine, who is from a well-known newspaper family and who was employed on The Sydney Morning Herald for ten years until 2011, has described her experience: “When I arrived at the Herald it was controlled by a handful of hard-left enforcers who dictated how stories were covered, and undermined management at every turn.” A former executive of Fairfax said the worldview of the collective was “inarguably Left-leaning, and anti-business. It was also anti-religion—especially anti-Christian—and hostile to bourgeois family values. The tragedy was that [Fairfax’s] core audience was a conservative audience. You’ve never seen a paper more disengaged from its core audience, particularly the [Melbourne] Age.”

Windschuttle’s article is behind The New Criterion’s pay wall, but I do encourage you to find a way to read it — even [heaven forfend] buy the magazine!

Sadly, the article “Anti-gay rights to stay” is an example of the decline and fall of a once great newspaper.

First published in GetReligion.

Australian Christian leaders appeal to MPs to reject gay marriage: The Church of England Newspaper, September 16, 2012, p 5. September 20, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Marriage.
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The Anglican and Roman Catholic archbishops of Sydney have endorsed a public letter urging the Australian parliament to reject calls to widen the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

The statement endorsed by Dr. Peter Jensen and Cardinal George Pell and by over 250 other Orthodox, Anglican, Catholic and Protestant clergy comes as parliament in Canberra on 10 Sept 2012 takes up four bills that seek to amend the Marriage Act to permit same-sex weddings under law.

Marriage is the “lifelong commitment and faithful union of one man and one woman. As such, marriage is the natural basis of the family because it secures the relationship between biological parents and their children,” the preamble to the statement declared.

“As Christian leaders” those signing the statement affirmed their “commitment to promote and protect marriage. We honour the unique love between husbands and wives; the vital place of fathers and mothers in the life of children; and the corresponding ideal for all children to know the love and role modelling of a father and mother.’

“Marriage thus defined is a great good in itself, and it also serves the good of others and society, as it has done for thousands of years. The preservation of the unique meaning of marriage is therefore not a special or limited interest, but serves the common good, particularly the good of children.’

They called upon Parliament to “protect this definition of marriage in Australian law, and not change the meaning of marriage by adding to it different kinds of relationships.”

On 16 June 2012 Dr. Jensen released a statement urging Anglicans to lobby their MPs to vote against the proposed amendments to the Marriage Act. He stated the “parliamentary success of this revolutionary re-definition is not inevitable. It will help however if in the near future Christians who wish to stand for marriage, as instituted by God, would thoughtfully and courteously let their views be known to their Federal parliamentary representatives.”

“We should speak up for the sake of love,” he said, “however hard it may be and whatever pressure we may face, we do not love our fellow Australians if, knowing God’s grace and his written will, we do not speak up and point them to God’s plan for the flourishing of human relationships.”

The first votes on the amendments are likely to take place by month’s end.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A “fair go” for Lindy Chamberlain: Get Religion, June 13, 2012 June 13, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion.
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“My God, my God, the dingo’s got my baby!”

On 17 August 1980 seven week old Azaria Chamberlain disappeared from her family’s campsite near Ayer’s Rock in the Australian desert.

The baby’s mother, Lindy Chamberlain, claimed a dingo took the baby from its crib. But a police investigation concluded she had murdered the baby and two years later Lindy Chamberlain was sentenced to a life term of imprisonment for murdering her child.

Today, 12 June 2012 a coroner’s court in Darwin closed the case of Lindy Chamberlain, finding that a dingo did take the child from its cradle and was the likely cause of death.

The case of Lindy Chamberlain and her husband, Michael, proved to be one of the most watched trials of the Twentieth century in Australia — and certainly its most cathartic. It spawned a movie A Cry in the Dark starring Meryl Streep, an opera, a television docudrama, books and countless newspaper and magazine articles. It also produced some great reporting about a miscarriage of justice where flawed forensic evidence and public hysteria (very much like the McMartin PreSchool trials) convicted an innocent women.

A jury found Lindy Chamberlain to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt even though there was no body, no motive, and no eyewitness evidence.  The judge summed up in favor of the defendant noting that the eyewitness evidence presented to the court (if believed) disproved the theory that Lindy Chamberlain stole away from the tent for about 8 to 10 minutes with her child and then murdered her in the desert.

Lindy Chamberlain quickly became the most hated woman in Australia. Public opinion was firmly in favor of the verdict. The Guardian  wrote:

Yet immediately there was scepticism and scorn [about the dingo claim]. It seemed an unlikely story and the Chamberlains displayed an outwardly calm demeanour. That set the atmosphere for the vicious rumours that began to circulate, including the false claim that the name Azaria meant “Sacrifice in the Wilderness”. The Chamberlains’ religion was poorly understood and ugly rumours started about the sort of things Seventh-day Adventists did.

This scorn crossed the Pacific to Hollywood, providing a memorable scene in an episode of Seinfield.

As an article by Roz Zurko in the Examiner noted:

Probably the most famous line referring to this case was when Elaine was at a party with some snobbish Long Islanders and the woman was going on and on about her fiancé, who she referred to as her baby. When the woman couldn’t find “her baby” at the party, Elaine, who had enough of her non-stop talk, leaned into her and said, “The Dingo ate your baby.” The train of thought back then was that the Chamberlains made this story up.

The website of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Australia 32 years after the death of Azaria Chamberlain maintains a page that responds to some of the wilder claims made by the media in the case.

A few of the misconceptions of Seventh-day Adventists that were published by the media included:

We do not give and accept blood – this resulted in baby Azaria dying because she was “spear-tackled” by Lindy in a Mount Isa supermarket and was refused a blood transfusion.

Adventists actually promote good health practices, including the use of blood transfusions. We run a network of more than 500 hospitals and clinics around the world – Sydney Adventist Hospital is one of these hospitals – where blood transfusions are given.

We practice ritual infanticide, and that the name Azaria meant “sacrifice in the wilderness.”

Adventists are mainstream Protestant Christians who reject any form of ritualistic killing or such practices. The name Azaria is derived from the male Biblical name “Azariah” and means “helped by God” or “blessed of God”.

We are obviously familiar with ritual killings since Lindy appeared unaffected by the death of her daughter during interviews and the trial.

Adventists have a strong and unwavering faith in the goodness of God. Lindy’s belief in God and on what happens when someone dies gave her the calm and ability to rest and rely on God. Lindy was able to speak openly about forensic and scientific evidence because of her practical personality and her belief in God that gave her strength and peace of mind.

One of the best recent stories I have seen on this case is an AP story by Kristen Gelineau entitled “Australia asks again: Did a dingo really kill Lindy Chamberlain’s baby?”

The case, Ms. Gelineau argued in a February 2012 article, has forced Australians to question themselves.

Australia is a nation that was, in many ways, born out of judgment, when Britain began sending its unwanted convicts to the continent in the 1700s. These social outcasts fought against what they considered the elitism of the British class system, cheered for the underdog and honed a sharp sense of injustice. Australia proudly dubbed itself “the land of the fair go.”

Today, the “fair go” is a key part of Australian identity, a phrase that shows up in politics, popular culture and everyday life. … But the fair go mentality didn’t seem to apply to the Chamberlains, with their little-known religion.

Michael Chamberlain was a pastor with the Seventh-day Adventist church, a Protestant denomination that few Australians understood. In the absence of fact came rumors that spread with frightening ferocity, of child sacrifice, witchcraft, even Satanism. Had Lindy killed Azaria as part of a twisted religious ritual? Did the name Azaria really mean “sacrifice in the wilderness?” (It is a Hebrew name that means “helped by God.”)

The hysteria was reminiscent of the Salem witch trials in the U.S. Even a black dress once worn by Azaria was seen as proof that Lindy was an evil murderess — because what kind of mother dresses her baby in black?

Michael Chamberlain, who was divorced from Lindy in 1991, is now an author in a small town north of Sydney. When asked about the case, he is both weary and wary, carefully limiting what he says ahead of the inquest as he waits to see whether the system will give him a chance.

“The church got so smashed up, erroneously, and all through, really, a nasty dose of prejudice,” Chamberlain says. “I can say that I think our religion definitely impacted quite strongly on the attitude that many Australians developed.”

The growing evidence that they had unfairly judged the Chamberlains was a bitter pill for Australians to swallow, says John Bryson, author of “Evil Angels,” the definitive book on Azaria’s disappearance.

“Australians always thought of themselves, and this country, as being the country of fair play,” Bryson says. “That certainly wasn’t the case.”

This article by Ms. Gelineau, along with many others written over the past 30 years is an example of great journalism — combing accuracy, psychological insight, moral clear-sightedness and great writing.  The press at its best.

First printed in Get Religion.

Lord’s Prayer out in Australia: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 23, 2011 p 6. September 28, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Complaints by devotees of the new atheism in Australia have beaten back the Lord’s Prayer from the public square. A primary school in Perth’s northern suburbs has ended the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer before school assemblies after some parents complained that it violated the law by promoting religious belief over non-belief.

On 20 September, Edgewater Primary School principal Julie Tombs wrote to parents announcing the cessation of prayers after 25 years, after a survey of parents indicated that some were opposed to the practice.

“We acknowledge that of the parents who did respond to the survey, many wanted to retain the Lord’s Prayer and it is right that we continue to recite it at culturally appropriate times such as Christmas and Easter, as part of our educational programme,” Mrs Tombs said in a statement.

“However, at this school we have students from a range of backgrounds and it is important to consider all views and not promote one set of religious beliefs and practices over another.”

A survey sent by the school to parents found that a small minority were offended by their children having to recite the Lord’s Prayer once every two weeks. Parents who enrol their children at the school had been informed that recital of the Lord’s Prayer was part of the school assembly programme.

The complaints to the school, which is in an area with few religious minorities, arose from parents who opposed any prayer. While only 36 per cent of the parents responded to the survey and of that group only a minority were opposed to the prayers, Mrs Tombs stated the argument that Western Australia Education Act forbade state schools from fostering sectarian religious creeds.

WA Premier Colin Barnett told the AAP that “WA is basically a Christian-based community and I think its desirable to have the Lord’s Prayer said.”

However, the “decision rests at the school level. Certainly schools can, and I would encourage them to, have the Lord’s Prayer.”

The Very Rev John Shepherd, the Dean of Perth, concurred, saying there was a place for the Lord’s Prayer in a multi-faith environment at government schools.

“I think there is a place [for the Lord’s Prayer], just as there is a place for exposing children to the full knowledge of other faiths,” Dr Shepherd said, adding “it does embody values to which we all ascribe.”

One mother interviewed by Nine News as she picked her children up from school summarized the complaints as being “ridiculous” for giving a vocal minority control over public life.