CHARLES WOOLEY

Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - UPFRONT -

In his con­fes­sions of a Cloa­can Wooley ex­plains why his eggs are al­ways scram­bled.

Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son’s Christ­mas present to Aus­tralians has a lot of peo­ple con­fused, not least within his own party. Talk about a rid­dle wrapped in an enigma. It is not one of those gifts you can dis­cern from its shape or by squeez­ing the pack­age. In­deed all we have so far is merely the wrap­ping around ScoMo’s pro­posed Re­li­gious Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act. There’s a lot of spec­u­la­tion that this is in fact leg­is­la­tion to al­low re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion rather than pre­vent it. Things may not be what they seem.

It’s only fair that first I de­clare my in­ter­est here. In past col­umns I may have shown some scep­ti­cism on mat­ters of faith so you might be sur­prised to learn that I have a re­li­gion of my own. I am ask­ing for a mea­sure of your tol­er­ance be­cause what I choose to be­lieve might seem to chal­lenge all credulity. But it is ar­guably no more out­landish than other com­mon re­li­gious be­liefs like vir­gin birth, res­ur­rec­tion, rein­car­na­tion or the be­lief that you can mur­der your way into par­adise with 72 vir­gins. Nor do I con­sider my­self cra­zier than any of the 52 per cent of gen­er­ally harm­less Aus­tralians who iden­tify them­selves as hav­ing a re­li­gious faith.

Ad­her­ents of my re­li­gion call them­selves The Chil­dren of the Cloaca. We be­lieve at the be­gin­ning of the world all of cre­ation came out of the fun­da­men­tal ori­fice of a chook in the form of a gi­ant egg. Need­less to say the chook was bound­lessly large and all know­ing. In­side the egg the uni­verse de­vel­oped and ex­panded in­fin­itely, pro­duc­ing the cos­mos as we strive to un­der­stand it to­day. We have no beef with modern science. But what we be­lieve in can­not be ob­served by in­ter­stel­lar probes or ra­dio tele­scopes, which of course can only see in­side the egg. We know that out­side the shell, beyond the ken of hu­man science, the gi­ant chook pa­tiently sits on top of the egg and over eter­nity in­cu­bates our uni­verse. We anx­iously await the Great Hatch­ing, which we know will come any day now, when all the mys­ter­ies of life shall be re­vealed. In a nut­shell, sorry in an eg­gshell, that is what we be­lieve. If you want to know more send $10 and a self-ad­dressed en­ve­lope to this col­umn and you will re­ceive a book­let.

“There is no greater fun­da­men­tal right that hu­man be­ings have than to be­lieve what they want to be­lieve. What you want to be­lieve should be a mat­ter for you alone.” Thus spake ScoMo. He ap­peared to con­fer rights and priv­i­leges on ev­ery re­li­gion even if it is a re­li­gion with only one fol­lower. Some cler­ics worry this “a- mat­ter­for-you-alone” busi­ness is open­ing up a the­o­log­i­cal can of worms over which they might have lit­tle con­trol. There’s grow­ing alarm that the ScoMo def­i­ni­tion of re­li­gion is what­ever the believ­ers want to be­lieve.

The tra­di­tional Chris­tian church has al­ways been about cen­tral con­trol but the present tem­po­rary PM is prov­ing sur­pris­ingly lib­eral in these mat­ters. But then his Pen­te­costal form of Chris­tian­ity might seem bizarrely lib­eral to more staid faiths. It em­braces colour­ful prac­tices such as speak­ing in tongues, prophecy and in­stant heal­ing, to the ac­com­pa­ni­ment of rock and roll mu­sic.

If you thought my Cloa­can faith was a bit out there, drop into your lo­cal Hill­song church next Sun­day morn­ing. You’ll find it a bit more ex­cit­ing than the In­sid­ers on ABC tele­vi­sion and of course much more prophetic. Though please un­der­stand when they preach The Se­cond Com­ing they are prob­a­bly not talk­ing about the re-elec­tion of ScoMo.

Which may be why, with the writ­ing on the wall, the PM is des­per­ately try­ing to win the hearts of peo­ple of faith. But in his at­tempt to pro­tect them against dis­crim­i­na­tion, he is most in­dis­crim­i­nate. He will take any faith no mat­ter how loopy, “It’s about Aus­tralians’ right to be­lieve what they want to be­lieve,” the PM told us as he opened the flood­gates of faith. “Eg­gs­actly” cheered some of my fel­low Cloa­cans. (I’m afraid they have a pen­chant for bad puns) “And don’t make yolks about us or we will give you a shel­lack­ing un­der the Re­li­gious Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act,” they cho­rused.

There is very lit­tle ev­i­dence of re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion in Aus­tralia. Phillip Rud­dock, who con­ducted the in­quiry into these mat­ters pre­ced­ing ScoMo’s pro­posed Bill, didn’t re­ally find any­thing of great con­cern and so didn’t rec­om­mend any leg­isla­tive ac­tion. What’s pro­posed now is more likely a gen­u­flec­tion to the so-called “con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian right” in terms of as­sur­ing them they won’t be pros­e­cuted if they refuse to per­form gay marriages or to ac­cept gay teach­ers and stu­dents in their schools. Such dis­crim­i­na­tion is cur­rently against the law but won’t be in the un­like­li­hood that this silly leg­is­la­tion gets enough sup­port to pass through both houses of par­lia­ment. The Re­li­gious Dis­crim­i­na­tion Bill is a mis­nomer in that it’s re­ally a “get out of jail card” for re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions to dis­crim­i­nate against peo­ple not of their faith and be­liefs. While Rud­dock could not find much ev­i­dence of dis­crim­i­na­tion in his pre­vi­ous in­quiries, if this Bill passes and he cares to look once again he will find plenty of re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion. But then it will be le­gal.

Mean­while The Chil­dren of the Cloaca are plan­ning to hold our pop­u­lar an­nual egg rolling fes­ti­val at the Do­main again this Easter. I’m sorry to tell you this year it will be strictly “Cloa­cans Only”. Un­der the Re­li­gious Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act we will be legally en­ti­tled to refuse en­try to non­be­liev­ers, so stay away, un­less of course you care to join our flock.

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