The Parliamentary Christian Fellowship is a non-party political group of strongly Christian MPs in the federal parliament, who meet unofficially to discuss politics, parliamentary life and faith. Way back in 2004, the convener, Bruce Baird, put its membership at 60 out of a total number of 226 federal MPs.
However, one of his religious colleagues (who did not want to be named) said the figure was more like 75. Talk among non-religious members of the Press Gallery now suggests that there may be as many as 90. This means that the percentage of highly religious MPs in the parliament could easily be around 40 per cent.
The latest National Church Life Survey quotes a figure of 9 per cent of Australians who are regular weekly churchgoers. This could roughly be said to equate with the degree of religiosity evinced by most members of the PCF. This means that these people are over-represented in the parliament by four times that of the general community.
The PCF represents an important gauge on how far religion has infiltrated Australian politics in recent years. Membership of this group means you go to church every week and go down on your knees to an all-powerful, patriarchal God.
You probably say grace before meals at home, mostly believe in some sort of virgin birth, believe that the Bible is the literal word of God and believe in some sort of creationism or a ‘hand-made’ human rather than an evolved one.
In 2010 when Eros lobbyist, Robbie Swan, asked the Chair of the House of Reps ‘Billboard’ Committee, Graeme Perrett, for members on the Committee to declare their religious affiliations, 80 per cent of them said they were religious. A week later when he fronted a Senate Committee on Censorship, his request was denied by the religious Chair, Guy Barnett. However it was clear that 70 – 80 per cent of this Committee was comprised of medium to highly religious MPs
Jeff Sharlet’s recent book, The Family, lays out very clearly how the US religious right infiltrates governments using a range of strategies such as ‘prayer breakfasts’ and how these strategies have been imported into Australia over the past decade.
These prayer breakfasts are now held in almost every parliament in Australia and most capital city mayors host them annually. They provide an opportunity for MPs to wheel out their religious credentials to church leaders and do some fundraising with sympathetic business leaders. They are organised by groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby and the PCF arranges an annual event in the Great Hall of the Parliament.
In her address to the St Thomas More Forum in Canberra in 2010, PCF President, Senator Ursula Stevens said:
The Prime Minister (and I’m sure Mr Abbott) regularly meets with Church leaders – I know that Archbishop Mark, Bishop Stuart Robinson and James Haire are often in direct conversation with him when he is in Canberra. And Mr Abbott, as a Sydney-based MP is closely connected to the Archdiocese and Cardinal Pell. And of course I am only one member of parliament whose approach to our work is informed by their faith.
The number of religious parties registered federally has now increased to five - the DLP, the Christian Democrats, Family First, Australian Christians and Rise Up Australia. Each of these parties might get 2 per cent of the vote which doesn’t sound like much but as a block, they are in a position to approach both Labor and Liberal Party Secretaries at election time and offer 6-8 per cent of the vote through preference deals in return for policy promises after the election.
This frequently happens and is one of the main reasons why censorship, drug, abortion and euthanasia law reform have all stalled recently. It is also the reason I formed the Australian Sex Party.
Slowly and by stealth, we’ve been done over by a group of flat-earthers who have very skillfully infiltrated the major parties (even the Greens now have a Christian faction) through manipulating their pre-selection processes. We need a religious register for state and federal MPs so that all Australians can see where politicians are coming from when they vote or debate moral legislation.
This is no different from the principle that has been established by the Register of Member’s Interests, where MPs declare financial interests that could compromise them in voting on or debating economic matters in the Parliament.
Question 13 of the Register asks new MPs to declare, ‘Membership of any organisation where a conflict of interest with a Member’s public duties could forseeably arise or be seen to arise’. Penalties for non-disclosure include Contempt of Parliament charges.
A quick look at this register online shows that not one MP has listed their membership of the PCF or their religious affiliation in this category. With hundreds of millions of dollars just spent on chaplains in schools alone, we need transparency and honesty about religious influence.
Fiona will be speaking at the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne this weekend. Details here.
Source: The Punch