While there should be no religion mandated by state power, to suggest that legislators should never bring their faith to matters of public policy is “at best naive and at worst a conscious and deliberate attempt” to banish the values of believers, says NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley MP.
Speaking at the Parliamentary Interfaith Breakfast at Parliament House in Sydney on 17 October, Mr Foley said that religion should always be a legitimate voice as a source of values within public life and within public affairs.
“I think what is so often challenged today in our country and throughout the West is the embodiment in public policy of values that derive from religious teaching and religious authority,” he said.
“It’s that that is under constant challenge and attack.
“But to suggest that legislators should never bring their faith to matters of public policy is at best naive and at worst a conscious and deliberate attempt to banish religious values and the ethical values that derive from religious teaching, and to drive those out of the public square.”
Mr Foley called out as “hypocrisy” and also values-based the “fast and furious” criticism for “bringing his faith into it” that he has received when speaking about his opposition to euthanasia as a Catholic, when he hears nothing when he expresses thoughts about other issues in which his faith plays a part, such as homelessness or the dispossession of the First Australians.
A lot of criticism is “driven by a very strident and militant individualism” he said.
“If you think of it, it’s quite a hedonistic and self-centred materialism and militant individualism that is behind the attack on religious voices in the public square.
“But when [religious] voices speak up that’s a good thing for our body politics, it’s a good thing for our state and our nation.”
NSW Premier the Hon Gladys Berejiklian MP was also among the nearly 200 guests who attended the morning hosted by the Australian Catholic University, including more than 70 faith leaders and 40 parliamentarians.
Premier Berejiklian spoke of Australia’s shared values of diversity and inclusion as its strength.
SBS World News presenter and journalist Ms Janice Petersen spoke about the role of media in society and reporting of religion.
ACU’s parliamentary interfaith breakfasts have become a popular event on the calendars of both parliamentarians and the leaders of faith communities. This year, parliamentarians had the opportunity to meet with leaders from more than 20 faiths – including various Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and other communities – to celebrate shared values.
ACU Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven said it was a natural extension of the university mission to bring together political and faith leaders from across the community in a spirit of harmony.
“The ACU Mission is to foster an appreciation of the sacred in life and a commitment to serving the common good,” he said.
“The interfaith breakfast provides an opportunity to reflect on the important role that faith plays in our everyday lives and in making sense of the world.”