Note: First published 30 October, 2007
Hello. Does being a Christian determine how you vote? Yep, but it depends on which Christian values you prioritise. The right wing 'Australian Christian Lobby' published answers from political parties to its election questionnaire yesterday, at http://australiavotes.org/index.php. It's a nifty website, where you can call up responses to issue to compare. Only trouble is The Greens did not specifically answer the questions, so you get a blank for them. According to the Sydney Morning Herald's report, Greens refuse part in Christian survey:
The Australian Christian Lobby has expressed dissatisfaction with the Greens over the party's refusal to complete a national survey dealing with issues ranging from climate change and abortion to same-sex marriage.
The lobby's managing director, Jim Wallace, said the Greens had shown they were not concerned about the Christian vote and he expected this would influence where these voters put their preferences.
There's a lot of history between the ACL and The Greens, as the latter has campaigned strongly against the party in the past and will do so again this time, mainly on the issue of same sex relationships and other matters of personal morality (see here).
Given the distrust, The Greens responded to the survey questions with a letter, as follows, which the ACL refused to publish on their website. It reads:
"Thank you for your follow-up email in regard to the Australian Christian Lobby survey. We would ask that you publish the following response on your website.
"We are, of course, aware that many Christians vote Green because they recognise the Greens’ commitment to peace and non-violence, social justice and the environment and to participatory democracy are consistent with Christian values. The Greens have an ongoing dialogue with the established Christian churches with a long association with faith traditions and demonstrated commitment to social justice and to the Gospels.
"The Greens oppose discrimination in any form. We regard all issues and legislation as having a moral and ethical dimension which is reflected in our policy platform. Our position is well expressed in the inaugural speech of Senator Christine Milne in August 2005:
It used to be that every political party could be defined by values, by the values it prioritised in the hierarchy, but it is no longer clear which values underpin main-stream politics.
Every political decision is a values-based decision, from tax cuts, which prioritise individual self-interest over the common good, to the slashing of incomes for single parents and people with disabilities. This is a matter of justice and justice is something that you either value or you do not.
The abolition of student unionism is being dressed up as an issue of freedom of association, but isn’t it more an issue of equal opportunity for young Australians?
There has been a concerted effort to quarantine the values debate to matters of private and personal morality, deemed ‘family values’, in order to avoid a values debate on public economic and social policy. The prosperity gospel has been adopted to legitimise consumerism and materialism and to advance the economic rationalist agenda of conservative governments. The notion of ‘family values’ is confined to a narrow range of values to suit a particular agenda. Where I grew up, honesty, kindness, respect, justice, fairness, tolerance, love and forgiveness were family values. Discrimination against and vilification of minorities, lying, misrepresentation and meanness of spirit were not family values.
This quarantining of the values debate in such a narrow way is designed to do two things: firstly, to send a signal to the electorate that the government has a strong values base; and, secondly, to declare that all other issues are value free, so that it seems possible to have strong values and at the same time trample the very values of honesty, equality, freedom of speech, compassion, tolerance and a fair go which Australians hold dear and which are at the heart of all the world’s great religions and humanist philosophies.
"All the Greens policies are on our website and we would encourage your members and others viewing this site to reflect on the whole body of our policy platform and make their own choices.
"At the 2004 election the Australian Christian Lobby campaigned solely to stop the major parties from agreeing to civil unions between same sex couples, even though this is now recognised by the President of the United States as an issue of social justice. After the election it was the boast of Australian Christian Lobby that it had succeeded.
"The Australian Christian Lobby has never spoken out on the values behind Federal Budgets that give tax cuts to the rich and which deny Indigenous communities the funding to maintain their languages or to provide even the most basic health and education services. At no stage in the last 4 years has the Australian Christian Lobby ever commented on the Howard government inaction on climate change or refusal to recognise environmental refugees. This, in spite of calls by the World Council of Churches to act on climate change to protect God's Earth and to support the millions of people in developing countries who will be first and most dramatically affected.
"It is apparent that whilst belatedly the Australian Christian Lobby has included issues of public morality and the common good in this survey, the main agenda remains that of the fundamentalist Christian Right relating to private morality. It is offensive that the Australian Christian Lobby legitimises the very idea that it is acceptable to vilify a person because of their religious beliefs."
The ACL wants to position the parties to run its political agenda, not let the parties position themselves. How unChristian of them!
Some Christians have got a bit hot under the collar that the ACL is claiming ownership of the Christian vote, hence the rise of another Christian lobby group, which like the ACL, has sent out its own questionnaire and is holding its own candidate's forum for the election. This one is called The Centre for an Ethical Society, and I recently attended its Canberra candidates forum, opened by the Anglican Bishop of Canberra George Browning, with Greens Senate candidate Kerrie Tucker.
The CES has given the political parties until November 8 to respond to its survey - The Greens are the first to respond, Labor and the Democrats have promised to respond by the due date, and guess what - this time the Coalition has stayed silent and may well not respond at all!
So in the interests of free speech and balance, I've published the Greens' response to the CES survey here.
You know what? I reckon the Greens will top the CES survey for Christian values. Bottom to top, top to bottom - what's it all about?