Australia’s Christians need to ‘suck it up and calm down’ over religious freedom

Australian Christians are not suffering from religious persecution says Baptist minister, leading Australian religious figure and social justice advocate Tim Costello.

He is asking fellow Christians to “calm down” about their alleged persecution.

His comments come amid a brewing political storm over how the government should act to protect against religious discrimination.

Costello, a senior fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity, says the federal government should not try to legislate to cover “extreme” examples of competing rights. He cited the Israel Folau sacking case as an example of this.

Costello, who is the former chief advocate for World Vision Australia, says he has not seen any evidence of Christian persecution in Australia and Christians needed to “suck it up”, just like Jesus.

“I would say to Christians if you want to see persecution, let me take you to places where there is persecution of Christians and other religious groups – let me take you to Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan and I will show you persecution.

“And if they read their Bibles, Jesus said the world will hate you and misunderstand you for following me, but to go on following, loving, serving – so I would say, just suck it up.

“Jesus didn’t go around demanding legislation to protect his rights. Jesus didn’t advocate for freedom of religion legislation.”

Costello says he is “troubled” that the debate about religious discrimination had been reduced to a debate about competing individual rights and the role of the state.

This type of debate points to a “nihilism” in society that overlooked the importance of groups, he says.

Instead, he thinks the legislation needs to find the “middle road” on protecting people of faith, rather than focusing on the “extreme” case of Folau’s sacking.

“I would want less of a debate on rights and more of a debate on respect, because it is very difficult in law to cover what I call the extremes,” he says.

A spokesman for the Centre for Public Christianity said Reverend Costello had been “trying to take a bit of the heat out of the ­discussion”.

But Bruce Meller, from the Presbyterian Church of Australia, says although Costello is right to recognise the experience of Christians overseas, “negative discrimination is defin­itely being experienced here”.

Meller says Australian Christians should speak up in the debate about religiou­s freedom laws.

“This is the most important issue we face at the moment, and not just for Christians. The climate has changed dramatically, and it is that change to which Christians are reacting.”


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