Religious Vilification; An ABC Privilege Not Afforded to the Plebs
According to Victorian Multicultural Commission Chairperson Vivienne Nguyen “there is no place for racism, religious vilification or any form of hate conduct in Victoria’s multicultural society.”
That is no place except under parliamentary privilege and then one can apparently go ‘hell for leather.’ Reading ABC’s Bec Symons account of Cathrine Burnett-Wake ‘s final parliamentary speech you could be forgiven for making the assumption vilification privilege was in play.
Yet Burnett-Wake did not directly defame the incoming candidate Renee Heath; nor did she vilify church groups or Pentecostals in particular. It was our ABC journo who chose to take that liberty specifically linking both with the cultic extremism referred to by Burton-Wake.
The word ‘extreme, extremism, extremists’ appears 9 times in Symons article with Heath being referenced as ‘linked to a Pentecostal Church.’ Goodness: imagine that. A politician being linked to a faith-based community group. The new extremism.
Yes, Burnett-Wake did work on the Inquiry into Extremism in Victoria and mentioned it in her valedictory speech, but this was without reference to any faith-based groups. The inquiry into ‘far-right extremism’ was chaired by Fiona Patten. Of course, if you have an individual chairing an inquiry into the far-right who would be viewed by many as an extreme progressive or far-left, it’s hard to know what to make of it. These labels are not helpful. While inclusivity and democracy is continually lauded, it appears inconsistent to frown upon and fear church members who exercise their democratic right and civic responsibility to become politically engaged and represent their communities.
Surely, the notion of inclusivity includes faith communities. Most faith communities, especially our multicultural communities, are socially conservative. Shouldn’t they have a democratic right to reject extremely progressive views without being demonised? Apparently not. Symon’s says,
“Liberal Party members have expressed concerns that progressive laws passed in recent years such as assisted dying, the legalisation of sex work and making abortion more accessible have spurred extremists into policy making positions within the party.’ Extremists.
This tells me that extremists are citizens who attach inherent value to every life, hold to a more traditional or faith-based view, and have concern about over exposure of minors to adult concepts and images. With those concerned about vaccine mandates also being labelled extremist. It appears parental rights, freedom of belief and choice are all swooped up in the new extremism. This makes the democracy being lauded in Victoria look more like statism.
I agree with Burnett-Wake about the ‘war of words’ crippling real social cohesion. We don’t agree on right or left, right or wrong. We divide citizens by race, sexuality and political affiliation and we label everyone who doesn’t agree as apostates of state secularism and fair game to be vilified publicly as extremist. We might have a political theory of "no place for racism, religious vilification or any form of hate conduct in Victoria” however with the help of our ABC religious vilification holds a privileged position.