I am amazed at the growing intolerance in our western society to religious beliefs and to the freedom to believe that we feel in conscience is good and proper.

 There is no surprise in the fact thatAustraliais one of the most secularised countries in the world.  Yet, one would think that, even in this increasing godless country, one could sincerely hold on to one’s religious beliefs.  However, it has become fashionable to be dismissive of all religion, particularly of Christianity and attempts are made to dislodge one from ones beliefs.  Media personnel have proclaimed their atheism in public.  They mock and scorn people who do believe.  They claim that people with a religious belief do not have a right to engage in public debate on such issues as stem cell research, abortion, euthanasia and same sex unions.

 The reality is that in a democratic society, not only do we have a right to debate these issues, but we also have a right to have our opinions respected.  Matters which are against the teaching or conscience of religious people should not have the contrary viewpoint imposed upon them.  We do not need to engage in public discussion on issues such as these only on secularist terms.

 Bishop Peter Ingham ofWollongongmade the point very strongly.  “People of faith were once upon a time fed to the lions, decapitated, crucified and the like.  We instead find ourselves today subjected to what you could call ‘death by 1,000 cuts’ with the new mode of martyrdom coming in the form of ridicule, derision and character assassination, as opposed to being silenced through physical death.  The torture of believers is to be found in the constant attempts to have them relegated to the sidelines, unable to contribute to the morals, laws and structures that make up the fabric of society without significant criticism”.

 He continued, “Religion is not a purely private and personal matter. ChristianChurches, through their educational institutions, their cultural pursuits, through their social welfare and charitable organisations, put their faith into action after the mandate and example of Jesus Christ”.

 We must have the right to express our religious beliefs, to defend and help the marginalised, the vulnerable and to protect the family.  Our belief is that marriage is a conjugal union of a husband and wife.  If we redefine marriage or change traditional understandings about the sacredness of life as demanded by the new pagans, we would also seriously weaken our society.

 We cannot remain silent.  We must remain strong in our faith and we must further engage in public debate to influence public policy to secure our religious freedom; to help create a society in which we would live comfortably.