Too often people try to silence the Church by quoting the principle of “separation of Church and State”. Sadly this reveals a serious misunderstanding of a valuable principle. A little history might help.
In seventeenth century England the state-controlled church was the Church of England. (In Scotland it was the Church of Scotland.) The blending of the church and state was so entrenched that Anglican bishops were ex-officio in the English government upper-house (Lords) and people could not attend any university or have a government office unless they were part of the Church of England. Yes, really! In 1620 a few hundred people felt that the Church of England was too corrupt, so they fled to America (via Holland) to start the colony at Plymouth in Massachusetts. These were called Pilgrims. This is the story of the Mayflower and first Thanksgiving Dinner in 1621.
From 1628 a related reform group within the Anglican Church, called the Puritans, also began to reach into the American colonies. They established the colony of Salem, and there they forced Puritan practice upon all settlers. In doing this, they showed a tendency to continue the practice of a single state-sanctioned church in America, but the increasing flood of immigration to America soon ended that.
In 1662, after Oliver Cromwell had tried to force Puritanism upon all of England, the Church of England regained the ascendancy and had all Puritans put out of the Church – hence the origins of the so-called Dissenting chapels. In the 1730s the evangelical revivals in Britain greatly increased the number of non-Anglican Churches, and Church of England dominance declined.
Meanwhile, in America the population deliberately chose to never repeat the situation where the government told people what they must believe. This was known as “separation of Church and State”. Subsequently, as other nations were colonised, including Australia, the concept of separation of Church and State was firmly entrenched. This separation was always used to describe the freedom to worship unhindered according to one’s own conscience. It was never a statement that Christians could not participate in politics. In fact, the Christian faith was essential to American development, as can be seen in the inscription “In God We Trust” on American currency since 1864.
In recent years the ideal of separation of Church and State has been misused and re-invented in America to argue that the Church should not be present in government functions. This is a grave misrepresentation of the original principle because now it is used to remove reference to Christianity in any form, not just to stop one denomination from having ascendency. It is true that one faith should not be forced upon the government, but that is not the same as insisting that faith cannot be represented.
In Australia today some people quote the motto of separation in an attempt to exclude Christian values from political debate, and in fact, some Christians even voice this same erroneous sentiment. Every human being has a worldview and a religious understanding, even if their religious understanding results in an atheistic or evolutionary understanding of existence. It is grossly illogical, therefore, to conclude that every religion can be represented in parliament except Christianity, because of the separation of Church and State. That is a misunderstanding of separation of Church and State.
The issue can be explained using the terms “faith” and “values”. A Christian society maintains that no single faith or religion can be forced upon any person. Rather, the Christian values of freedom, respect and human dignity are extended to every person. This is what the Australian Christians party stands for.
It was the most vigilant of Christians who recognised the principle of freedom of conscience and established societies upon this principle. We, in Australia today, have astounding freedoms because of the Christian values of freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of association, and so on. It is only when the abuse of those freedoms detracts from another person’s freedom that the legal system draws boundaries. Freedom is a Christian value. Thus, ironically, one can be a devoted Muslim in Australia today because of the Christian value of freedom. One can be a radical atheist humanist today because of the Christian value of freedom. That is why Christian values must be retained in Australia – not to force one’s faith onto another person, but exactly the opposite – because Christianity respects each person’s rights and choices as long as their freedom is not then used to coerce another person.
The application is this – a Catholic, a Protestant, a Muslim, a Hindu or an Atheist can be elected to parliament in Australia because of our underlying Christian values. However, any person who uses that freedom to oppress another person should be barred from political activity; oppressive intolerance cannot be accepted. This is the reason why Australian Christians is absolutely opposed to Sharia Law – not because Sharia Law is Muslim but because it is a radical ideology that denies basic rights of freedom. Sharia Law would undermine the very fabric of Australian society if it was allowed to be introduced in any way. In the same way the imposition of same-sex marriage or the deceitful Safe-Schools program takes freedom too far, so that others are handicapped by improper use of freedom. Same-sex marriage imposes a minority value upon the broader community and allows the adoption of children into an unbalanced home. The Safe-Schools Coalition makes no secret of its intention to indoctrinate our children in same-sex relationships and in gender confusion. Our children must not be the victim of this campaign. It is an abuse of freedom.
“Separation of Church and State” means that the government cannot force its citizens to violate their own religious conscience, but it certainly does not mean that Christians should stay out of politics. Exactly the opposite is true. Christians have an obligation to ensure that Australian freedoms are maintained. If a Christian minister is told that he or she must perform the marriage of a same-sex couple – that is violation of the separation of Church and State. The State must not impose its values upon your faith. When a Muslim or Christian bakery is told that it must violate the owner’s religious beliefs by providing a cake for a same-sex wedding – that is violation of the separation of Church and State. When the radical Safe-Schools ideology is introduced into schools without parents’ consent or parents’ knowledge, that is violation of the separation of Church and State.
However, Christians engaged in politics? – that is what made this country great!