A bleak week for freedom in Australia

12 April 2019

3.3 MINS

Our national anthem begins with the triumphant line Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free.
But after some troubling news headlines in the last few days, that word free is less true than it was a week ago.

Australia’s freedoms—in particular freedom of speech and freedom of religion—are suffering huge blows at the moment. This is good news for no one.
I don’t normally blog about the news cycle, but this week I’ve felt compelled to. You’ve probably heard about one of these headlines. The other two you may have missed.

A Christian conference was censored by Facebook

A couple months ago I had the honour of meeting distinguished legal scholar Augusto Zimmermann.

This coming June, along with some of the brightest legal minds from Australia and around the world, he is hosting a conference called Religious Freedom at the Crossroads: The Rise of Anti-Christian Sentiment in the West.

When he and others shared the conference link on social media over the weekend, Facebook censored it, claiming that the conference violates their community standards.
Don’t skip past that. The biggest social media platform in the world censored an event highlighting the rising intolerance of Christianity.

Did you catch the irony?

A Christian woman saving unborn children was ruled a criminal

In 2016, Kathy Clubb was arrested for offering help and hope to mothers near an abortion clinic in Victoria. Recent laws had made it illegal for pro-life activists to be within 150 metres of such a facility.

She decided to challenge this law since it goes against Australia’s Constitution, which grants Australian citizens freedom of political communication.

On Wednesday, the highest court in Australia dismissed her challenge and forced her to pay a fine and all of the court costs.

In the words of Martin Iles, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby:

“Kathy’s crime amounts to a simple offer of help. The ministry she is a part of has seen over 300 babies lives saved in recent years, and their mothers given the help they need at a difficult time. This work is now illegal. The woman who did it is now a criminal.”

There’s a bitter irony in this story too. Former Greens leader Bob Brown faced similar charges for protesting against logging in an exclusion zone. But his case was acquitted by the High Court.

Since when are trees worth more than babies?

A Christian rugby player was sacked for expressing his faith online

The story about Israel Folau got all of Australia talking—and rightly so. On Tuesday, Australia’s highest-profile rugby player posted the following words on Twitter:

“Those that are living in sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.”

The post made reference to drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters.

Let me be clear that this is not my preferred method of evangelism. But to be fair, Folau was simply expressing a mainstream Christian viewpoint—basically, a paraphrase of a Bible verse.

For this sin, Rugby Australia has vowed to tear up his $4 million contract. No matter that it’s a World Cup year and Izzy was slated to be Australia’s star player.

No matter that Rugby Australia turns a blind eye when other players are charged with drunken misdemeanours every month or so.

A statement released by Qantas, the major sponsor of Rugby Australia, couldn’t be more ironic: “These comments are really disappointing and clearly don’t reflect the spirit of inclusion and diversity that we support.

What about inclusion for Folau?

In the name of diversity, are Christians who are public about their faith no longer welcome to play high-profile sport in Australia? Are we going mad?

Your Freedom Might Be Next

Thankfully, in Australia we still enjoy some of the most amazing freedoms in the world. But there’s growing evidence this may not last.

Recently, Open Doors—the global authority on Christian persecution—predicted the end of religious freedom in western nations.

Think what you like of Folau’s Twitter account, or Clubb’s views on abortion, or even the topic of Zimmermann’s conference.

But if you shrug your shoulders at the events of this week—or worse, think that justice has somehow been served—then you simply don’t understand how rare freedom has been in the history of this planet.

Our freedoms were hard won. And they’ll be even harder to win back once they’re sunk. You may dislike the people who lost their freedoms this week, but yours might be next.

Reflect for a moment on the famous poem First They Came by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller, penned during the Nazis’ rise to power.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

And then pray for Australia.

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  1. Obad Homassey 14 April 2019 at 10:00 am - Reply

    God bless you a real man of real God Jesus Christ, you are a faithful believer and a hero and God will reward you much more for standing by him, We support you and pray for you brother Israel!

  2. Luigi Rosolin 19 April 2019 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    Good of Canberra Declaration with other to expose the society org like Rugby, Qantas sponsor that had an LGBT CEO by the way influencing our society with $ of a company taxpayer had and are supporting with billion in history. He should face judgement for LGBT with taxpayer $ with the High Court that condemn a women that help save babies life. Or by FB incredible abuse to a well know Christian leader and scholar lawyer. AU also is letting an AU journalist in the hand of UK hypocrisy that with Swedish are acting in the abuse by USA against him for publishing and search for the wrong doing of the government and people. In the last day we know ungodliness, unmoral lifestyle are predicted with the righteous one persecute. Thanks God that you had redeemed all human that accept your sacrifice to save us sinner.
    Christian should stand for justice in general and even more when a brother or sister are persecute for stand the ground.

  3. Andrew Macnish 19 April 2019 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Well done. Times like this make me wonder what the diggers died for.

  4. Debra Bruce 20 April 2019 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    dear brother Israel….truly you have said the truth and you are a great role model…there are many who don’t have eats to listen…we must pray that God can forgive them and raise them up to be children of God.

  5. Ross 20 April 2019 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    This is my first comment on your blog. I share your concerns about the apparent decline of religious freedom in the Western world.

  6. Jenny 21 April 2019 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    So, where was the outrage from the drunkeds, liars, adulturers??? This was not an attack on homosexuals, it was a bible phrase attacking SIN. The guilt doth protest too much,methinks!! We CANNOT censor the Bible.

  7. Chris 21 April 2019 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    God bless you Israel. God will provide.

  8. Gert Lamprecht 21 April 2019 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Israel Folau, you are a true Christian who walks the talk. You are prepared to sacrifice something temporary for that which has eternal value. I applaud your genuine love and concern for the fate of sinners (as described in the post). You are clearly emulating what Jesus Christ did on Earth. You will be rewarded in Heaven, for sure!

  9. simon 22 April 2019 at 9:22 am - Reply

    God bless him for standing us for his beliefs and freedom of speach.
    My prayers are with him

  10. Paul Truscott 23 April 2019 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    Israel stands for what he believes. Alan Joyce pushes homosexuality as Qantas CEO – but is not vilified. Rugby has traditionally been a sport for strong men. Maybe if we focused on what real men are about we might beat the All Blacks at Rugby and have strong family units in which our children grow and form values

  11. Kathy Clubb 9 May 2019 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    Thanks for caring, Kurt: the mainstream media has largely ignored our High Court decision. One hopes the media will wake up soon: journalists aren’t too far down Martin Niemoller’s list.

  12. Mark Grace 10 May 2019 at 7:18 am - Reply

    Like all Christians we love the sinner but despise the sin. The Good Lord will have the final say on our lives. We stand with Israel Foleau in these paganistic world.

  13. Monica Bennett-Ryan 15 May 2019 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Christians are a sleeping giant in this country – 60% No one in public office wants to upset the ‘conservative’ Australians. The trouble is, we haven’t been using our voice and so the noisy minorities have been heard. When we use our voice and speak as one the Government will listen. It will have to – they can’t rule without the majority vote. So let’s use our power! Encourage as many people as you can to sign up to the Canberra Declaration and to the ACL and lets rule by numbers. War may have been declared on us, but the battle isn’t over, it hasn’t started yet, for we haven’t even begun to speak. When we stand quietly, solidly and publicly together, speaking with one voice, we will win this battle. No question about it…

    “Stand still and see the Salvation of God!” (Ex.14:13-14)

  14. Pauline 15 May 2019 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    What wonderful, inspiring and sacrificial work Cathy and Graham have done to not only stand up for the unborn but reach out to support the pregnant mothers . How grateful the mothers of those 300 babies saved must be. God bless both of them for standing up for the voiceless. Great will be their reward.

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