Monday, 29 June 2009

A Charter of Rights and the Bishops

You might recall that Australia currently has an inquiry running into whether or not we should have a Charter of Human Rights. You might think that with the increasing use being made of such legislation in the United Kingdom, Canada and elsewhere to persecute Christians, the Catholic position on such a thing was clear cut.

Apparently not.

ACBC Submission to the Inquiry

Our bishops have made a Submission to the Inquiry - but it sidesteps the whole question of a Charter, presumably because the bishops could not agree among themselves.

On the plus side it does focus on protection of life issues, including questions of conscientious objection. But I wasn't overwhelmed by the strength of the arguments, the practical examples (there are none) or anything else in it. It reads to me like a statement of a position, not an attempt to make a compelling case that could be used in the final report of the Inquiry.

More fundamentally, it pretty much ignores the question of freedom to practice religion and manifest one's faith publicly altogether! Yet this is the arena where all around the world, things are increasingly becoming difficult for Christians, who are being persecuted as 'intolerant' of the homosexual agenda in particular, under the guise of protecting human rights.

Should the bishops be making these submissions?

Now I have to admit I always wonder about the cost-benefit ratio of the bishops' making these kinds of submissions anyway - there are times when they do need to speak up, but to routinely invest considerable effort to do things more obviously in the realm of the laity seems a questionable prioritization of resources. When they duck out on the real issues facing our society, even more so!

Let's hope lots of other submissions have tackled the real issues, and taken a more hard hitting approach to doing so.

Next steps on the Inquiry

Meanwhile, the Inquiry itself is moving closer to conclusion. There is a talkfest coming up in Canberra in a few days, all looking terribly politically correct.

The sessions on how the UK charter is working could be fascinating (the speakers are Lord Thomas Bingham, Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, Mr Murray Hunt, Mr Geoffrey Robertson QC, Dr Hilary Charlesworth, Mr George Williams and Julian Lesser).

The other session Canberraites might want to focus on takes place this Wednesday afternoon, and our bishops are noticeably absent from the speakers list:

"Hot button issues

Session Chaired by:

Ms Tammy Williams and Mary Kostakidis
Member, National Human Rights Consultation Committee

Speakers:

Euthanasia and the Right to die

Mr Neil Francis
Chief Executive Officer
Dying with Dignity Victoria

Abortion and the Right to life

Ms Rita Joseph
Lecturer
Institute on Family Policy and Politics

Same Sex Marriage

Mr Rodney Croome
Gay Advocate

Religious Freedom in Employment

The Rt Reverend Robert Forsyth
Bishop of South Sydney
Diocese of Sydney Anglican Church of Australia "

Start worrying folks.