Something amiss in live-and-let-live Australia

Peter Kurti

Found guilty of a serious breach of his contract with Rugby Australia (RA), Israel Folau is now to be punished on the grounds that he openly expressed his personal – and sincerely held – religious beliefs.

A few years ago, it would have been laughable to think a sports star could be drummed out of his profession simply for having stated his deep religious convictions about Christian lifestyles.

But not today. Folau may yet be sacked for quoting from the Bible – the very book used for taking the oath in our law courts, and the very book taken to his Pacific Island ancestors by missionaries in the 19th century. Footballs were sent much later, of course, but became almost as strong a part of the island culture.

And now the tables have turned. Today, Folau, like other Pacific Islander Christians, is the missionary bringing the Bible back to the Western world from which the original missionaries set sail.

It’s much the same with African Christian missionaries who now preach the Bible in countries such as England that seeded their religion in the 18th century.

The Bible is the same; but the countries that sent it out have changed, and they don’t like the Bible message now being preached to them. It is an Orwellian, watershed moment.

Make no mistake: when stating a religious conviction is branded as offensive hate speech and leads to the destruction of one’s career and reputation, we know a deep crack has opened in our culture.

Let’s think of culture as a way of life comprising distinctive ideas and customs: “the invisible colour of everyday life,” as the great 18th century defender of liberty, Edmund Burke, defined it.

And then think back to the Australia characterised by what we like to see as an easy-going, live-and-let-live approach to social, ethnic and religious differences in our communities. Many of us are asking: What has gone wrong?

Part of the answer lies in first recognising the role anti-discrimination laws have played in checking certain forms of bad behaviour, targeting minority groups.

Those laws were an important reform. But the determination to eradicate discrimination has surely gone too far. Instead of being used as a shield to protect the vulnerable, it is now being used as a sword to cut down genuine forms of diversity.

If RA is concerned about losing support from sponsor Qantas, it should note that the airline itself is partnered with Emirates, whose home base of Dubai bans – and severely punishes – homosexuality.

Metropolitan sophisticates work themselves up into a frenzy about anything they consider to be an extremist opinion, especially if it involves religion – and Christianity, in particular.

Inner city elites seize instantly on any remark or social media post critical of gender, ethnicity, climate change or any number of issues, and whip up a storm about so-called “hate speech”. Their voices are loud and reinforce one another’s points of view. But what those urban elites fail to realise is that their angry opinions are utterly divorced from the concerns of middle Australia.

Nearly 90 per cent of respondents to a recent informal – therefore perhaps somewhat unreliable – online poll said Folau’s $4 million contract with RA should not be terminated. Ordinary Australians are well able to respect differing opinions and beliefs.

But what they do not respect is the concerted assault, led by those same elites, on our highly-prized freedoms of speech, religion, conscience, and association that make for an open and tolerant society.

Nor are they willing to tolerate the real extremism that the politically correct fetish for diversity imposes on the rest of us – like a dictatorship of virtue threatening to extinguish the flame of freedom.

Israel Folau’s fame and talent have now focused the nation’s attention on the crisis our culture is facing. And it’s not before time. This crisis has long been fomenting, and it confronts us with a choice.

As Shakespeare said in Julius Caesar: “There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea we are now afloat.”

A new tyranny of tolerance is descending upon us and is set to vilify – and then silence – the views and concerns of ordinary Australians who seek nothing more than freedom for themselves and for all others.

Either we can watch as the tide of the age ebbs, submitting to what Mark Latham – whose own concerns for community wellbeing have resuscitated his political career – recently called “the new serfdom in the Australian workplace” … where every aspect of an individual’s life is subject to scrutiny and control.

Or we can catch the tide, seize the moment, and stand fast against the diversity dictators, resolved to uphold our Australian way of life – refusing to divide neighbour from neighbour, or friend from friend.

Peter Kurti is a senior research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies and adjunct associate professor of law at the University of Notre Dame Australia.

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