Separation of Church and State?

Separation of Church and State?

Michael Gilchrist

A recent front page story in The Australian (10 June 2004), headed "Premier demands archbishop resign", raises important questions about the role of religion in Australia. The South Australian Premier, it was reported, had just called for the "immediate resignation" of Dr Ian George, the Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide over alleged mishandling of child sexual abuse claims.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of Dr George's situation, it was ultimately up to his Church to resolve the matter - as it did in the end. But the episode underlines the double standard currently operating: governments and media can tell the churches what to do or not to do; but Christians and church leaders who speak out on moral questions (such as abortion or euthanasia) are subject to fierce attack.

As Bishop Jarrett points out in his article (pages 8-9), "keeping God out of the discussion in the public square, as if He did not exist, has become the default position. Practical atheism ... has now become an official 'religion'."

Tony Abbott's passing and restrained mention of his concern about abortion drew the ire of upholders of the secular "religion", as did John Howard's support of legislation before Parliament to bar "gay marriages". Both were targeted as unwarranted Christian intrusions into the affairs of State.

One can now risk prosecution in a range of categories outlawing discrimination, e.g., on the grounds of race, gender and religion; but the one exception is Christianity, now seen as a soft target. Anti-Christian ridicule and blasphemy can be served up via the arts and media without fear of retribution.

Today, there is an attitude of "heads I win, tails you lose" as to the roles of Church and State in Australia. While Christians and their leaders are told to keep their moral opinions out of the public square, governments and media don't hesitate to direct churches how to run their affairs.

At the same time, our secular elites are not slow to select appropriate targets for moral outrage.

It is more than time for Christians to stand up against the bullies.

Michael Gilchrist, Editor (E-mail:; website:

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