Media Release: Church influence on MPs

Anti-secular dominance in politics has again been exposed in the wake of George Pell’s conviction, says National Secular Lobby ambassador, Associate Professor Paul Willis.

“In the wash-up from Pell’s trial it is clear that high-level clerics have had significant power to influence governments – including opposition to a raft of progressive social policy, and even matters of science such as Climate Change policy.”

“It’s notable that two former Prime Ministers – John Howard and Tony Abbott – provided character references for Pell after the conclusion of his trial showing complete disrespect for his victims and the rule of law in Australia.”

“There could be no more poignant display of the inappropriate relationship between religion and politics in this country.”

“There has always been a high ratio of Christians in parliament. In itself this should not be a problem. But when politicians use their office to impose their religious perspectives on the people of Australia, this is a gross abrogation of the separation of church and state.”

“We have seen a lot of this in recent years -- particularly from Liberal and Labor Catholics -- who have a disproportionate level of influence to dictate opposition to socially progressive legislation.”

“It was only by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promising to set up the Religious Freedom Review that Christian conservatives agreed to pass the Same Sex Marriage Act.  But other legislation is still blocked.”

Prof Willis said that anti-abortion, anti-voluntary euthanasia, anti-gay and anti-science positions articulated by George Pell and others deliberately put federal parliament at odds with the secular views of the general public.

He said an Ipsos poll in 2016 showed 78 per cent of the community do not want religious doctrine to dominate the political process where social legislation should only be based on secular values.

“It’s a fact that religion and politics were first joined at the hip in 391 CE, when Emperor Theodosius made the early Christian movement the official Church of Rome.”

“Today, it is no longer acceptable that divisive religious beliefs have such influence over public policy.”

Assoc. Prof Willis said, with another election looming, the voting public should be made more acutely aware of any deep religious convictions of candidates -- and those standing for office should be open and honest with the public.

National Secular Lobby