In the book Rogue Forces, ABC journalist Mark Willacy uncovers how culture, peer pressure, separation from family and increasing mental anguish intersected in a way that saw many in Afghanistan lose their moral bearings.
One man who found the strength to stand apart from the dominant zeitgeist was my friend and colleague Captain (now Liberal MP) Andrew Hastie. Willacy demonstrates how at a great cost Hastie challenged the prevailing culture as well as the breakdowns of long-respected moral norms.
What’s apparent is that Hastie’s moral and ethical strength is grounded in his deep Christian faith. A faith he is determined not to betray through small actions that might help his assimilation with the dominant group. It makes Hastie a loner but a strong man able to withstand the worst of war and make the right calls in a moment of crisis.
Hastie’s actions are a reminder of how millions of Australians find strength, certitude, and guidance from having a religious faith. Faith can provide many of us with the strength to face the ambiguities and, at times, the anguish of life. I know I have found as a Jewish man my faith giving me the strength to stand for what I believe in.
In the same way a deep faith sustained Andrew Hastie and indeed me, so Australia’s faith communities sustain so much of our country. Our churches, synagogues, temples and places of religious worship are the foundation for thousands of schools, hospitals, homeless shelters, refuges for women and children, and services supporting new immigrants and people with a disability.
Despite this good work, we are seeing Australia’s religious communities under great ideological pressure from the extreme left.
In Canberra, we have witnessed the Calvary Hospital sham. This past week, a government-funded crane removed the Christian cross that embodied the hospital’s mission of care and compassion for 44 years. The cross was removed as part of the Canberra Labor government’s seizure of the hospital following its nationalisation in a land-and-assets grab.
The seizure of the hospital has been blessed by federal Labor and enthusiastically supported by the Labor Left and the Greens. It is clear the seizure of Calvary is a test run to forcibly take over other Catholic institutions such as the Mater and St Vincent’s.
As Archbishop Anthony Fisher correctly says: “This isn’t just about Calvary Hospital. If the ACT government can do this to a Catholic hospital, what is to stop them from doing it to a Catholic school or aged-care facility or welfare agency. What’s to stop the same thing happening in institutions run by other faith groups as well?”
John Howard condemns ACT Labor for the forced takeover of the Calvary Catholic Hospital.
The archbishop is not far from the mark. Already, the groundwork is being laid by federal Labor to ideologically neuter the religious ethos of Australia’s religious schools. Supported by federal Labor Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, the Australian Law Reform Commission is laying the foundation for a comprehensive overhaul of religious practice in our non-government schools.
The commission is inquiring into Australia’s religious schools and its draft report indicates its belief that religious schools in form, practice and culture should be no different than a government school. The Albanese government claims the ALRC is independent of it. In a theoretical sense that is true, but the terms of reference for the inquiry, which were designed to only deliver one outcome, were signed off by the Attorney-General.
This ideological push against Australia’s religious groups is also finding its way into mainstream government decisions. Faith communities have as a fundamental teaching the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life. But now state Labor attorneys-general are pushing for their euthanasia regimes to include telehealth. For all the talk of euthanasia advocates about strong safeguards, the same advocates are arguing for patients to access the system through a phone call or a Zoom.
Even more troubling, is the ACT push to allow 14-year-olds to be euthanised. I am deeply concerned about teenagers hearing mixed messages that the euthanasia of a friend is “brave” or “courageous”, and inadvertently fuelling suicide ideation.
And at the coming Labor national conference, there is a renewed push by the Labor Left to force faith-based hospitals and their staff to act against conscience.
Australia’s religious groups are not an enemy. The ideological war of Labor’s Left and the Greens not only robs religious communities of their freedom, but it also undermines the good work being done in communities across Australia.
Equally, as Andrew Hastie demonstrated, the ability of people of a religious faith to live out their faith and to work apart from a prevailing zeitgeist can be a vital fail-safe mechanism that stops a rushing to moral calamity.