In recent days, churches around the nation marked Religious Freedom Weekend with prayers for persecuted believers abroad and better protections for people of faith here in Australia.
Meanwhile, the South Australian Liberal Party moved to either cancel or challenge hundreds of new party membership applications due to suspected church connections. On Friday, InDaily reported that:
The SA Liberal Party has moved to crack down on hundreds of new members recruited from conservative Pentecostal Church communities, cancelling scores of memberships and effectively issuing ‘show cause’ notices to hundreds more.
This follows recent reports by the same outlet that Liberal frontbencher David Speirs, Senator Alex Antic, and several other senior Liberal MPs have been actively encouraging church-going Christians to be more involved in the political process.
According to InDaily, on Friday the Liberal Party’s state executive rejected over 100 new members over fears the party will be “taken over by the Right”. They also wrote to 400 others who have joined since the start of the year, demanding “they explain their commitment to the Liberal cause”.
Australia-wide, there has been a measurable uptick in the number of Christians joining various political parties, but this predates the advice of Speirs and Antic. The passage in recent years of radical abortion, euthanasia and ‘gay conversion’ laws in jurisdictions across the nation has left many people of faith feeling ignored by parties they have supported for decades.
The Canberra Declaration’s Kym Farnik is one of many South Australians to have recently joined the Liberal Party over right-to-life concerns. “We are not anti-Liberal Party,” he clarifies, “but we are wanting to prevent a ‘progressive’ leftist shift away from traditional Liberal Party values.”
Farnik explains that in his various Christian networks, he has been “discussing and praying about political involvement by Christians since last year”. He is aware of many of a similar mind who are joining parties interstate. A common concern Farnik is hearing is that their values are not being represented by the parties they usually vote for.
Joining a political party in order to shape its policy and candidate preselection is an obvious move for those who want a say in the political process, but whose concerns remain unheard. Membership in political parties is a basic freedom in representative democracies like Australia. Due to Christ’s teaching that believers should be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ (Matthew 5:13-16), many Christians feel that it is a personal responsibility to be politically active.
Regardless of the beliefs of prospective members, parties on either side of the aisle should not be surprised at a surge of interest in membership if the will of their voter base is not being represented in parliament. As Speirs himself has warned, SA’s Upper House in particular is known for taking a laissez-faire approach on issues like abortion and euthanasia. “They just wave legislation through. They’re not interested in undertaking deep analysis or challenging legislation that is presented to it,” he recently warned.
Farnik has highlighted the hypocrisy of the South Australian Liberal Party by pointing to their website’s About page, which states, “We believe in the basic freedoms of thought, worship, speech, association and choice.” The Party also affirms “giving all citizens equal rights under the law, responsibilities to maintain it, and the freedom to change it.”
Given the party’s recent purge of Christians, they may want to edit their statement of belief or consider living up to it.
[Photo: South Australian Premier Steven Marshall (AAP Image/David Mariuz)]