The title is quoted from this ABC Online article with respect to the special regulations in force from yesterday until the end of this month that relate to the behaviour of onlookers and protesters to the Roman Catholic World Youth Day event, which takes place over 5 days (July 15-20) later this month. The laws restrict the populace’s expression of free speech and add new offences, whereby any behaviour deemed as “annoying” can attract a $5000 fine. (Previous regulations regarding WYD restrict public movement around various public spaces such as the Opera House forecourt and Centennial Park during the event.)
President of the New South Wales Bar Association Anna Katzmann says she does not understand why the regulations have been brought in.
“They are repugnant for two reasons,” she said.
“First of all the Government has by-passed the normal parliamentary scrutiny that would be available if they were introduced by an Act of Parliament,” she said.
“Secondly they are an unreasonable interference with people’s freedom of speech and movement.”
Coming on top of the amazing amount of taxpayer money being spent to fund this religious event and the way in which public spaces in Sydney are being closed off to the citizens who normally use them (try walking your dog in Centennial Park for the week of WYD, and of course the racing industry is taking another hit with WYD being handed the Randwick Racecourse), these restrictions are truly outrageous. Iemma’s government has totally lost the plot.
I’m sure that the pilgrims coming to the city are well-meaning young people who simply want to have a fun conference reaffirming their joint faith. But why do I and other citizens have to pay for their fun? Resentment by taxpayers of the waste involved in staging this bunfight should not be misunderstood as any anti-Catholic or anti-Christian sentiment per se, although of course there will be the inevitable substream of bigots who jump on the dissatisfaction bandwagon to spew their bile. The point is that we are a secular state, and the state should simply not be in the business of promoting religious events, especially if they promote only one (or a few) but not others.
I’m far from the first to say this, but it bears repeating: does anyone think that the State of NSW would fund a hypothetical Muslim WYD with millions of dollars of public money? Or a Church of Scientology WYD? Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints WYD? Seventh Day Adventists? Assemblies of God? If not (and I think NSW would not), then why are we funding a Roman Catholic event in this way?
Mark Bahnisch at Larvatus Prodeo has more, and PZ Myers has put up an open thread for venting Australians at Pharyngula.
Categories: ethics & philosophy, law & order, religion, social justice
I wonder whether the NSW state government has managed to figure out what the precedent they’re setting is. I mean, if I were the organisers of the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras for this year, I’d be screaming blue bloody murder if they didn’t extend a similar protection (in the form of “no offending the participants and guests”) to that event as well. Just think – legal reasons to move on the god-bothering wowsers from their protests! After all, if it’s legal for one, it’s presumably legal for all.
Meg Thorntons last blog post..Wheee!
Do we have a Bill of Rights yet? *sigh*
This is my Pull No Punches day, so here it is:
I’d like to be able to slap each and everyone one of those little proto-Catholic bigots with $5000 for annoying _me_. And yes, there sure is anti-Catholic sentiment there (though as you note, it’s nothing like a necessary condition in order to be opposed to the Government’s methods).
One of the Catholic Church’s driving forces and primary effects in the world is variously successful attempts to suppress ALL women’s rights to bodily autonomy and reproductive justice. “Meaning well” means nothing if your goals are inherently bigoted and have foreseeably adverse results for women. So yes, it’s personal, and yes, I’m anti-Catholic.
Unless this is specifically a Reform convention, I don’t find it benign or fun at all; methodically growing and networking new bigots and fostering their hate is one of the foulest aspects of the megatheocratocorporate machine, and it absolutely doesn’t deserve Government protection from criticism, annoyance, or other people’s presence.
I’m certainly anti-Vatican for all those reasons you mention, Lauredhel. Most rank and file Catholics don’t seem to agree particularly with the Vatican’s strictures on contraception, for a start, and neither do they approve of how the Vatican and Bishops protect the minority of child abusers within the priesthood to the detriment of their congregations. I strive mightily to maintain a distinction between the two groups in my thinking.
Christ on a bike. The censorship of protesters is a whole new reason to protest as far as I’m concerned. And I’m with Meg – they better damn well extend the exact same courtesies to Mardi Gras!
And abortion clinics.
“Most rank and file Catholics don’t seem to agree particularly with the Vatican’s strictures on contraception, for a start, and neither do they approve of how the Vatican and Bishops protect the minority of child abusers within the priesthood to the detriment of their congregations.”
I believe there was some survey data on this that suggested that Catholics tended to have the same spread of opinions on contraception, abortion etc as the wider society. It is actually more worrying when it’s not clear what the Vatican achieves through holding some of it’s positions – if it’s not to influence the opinions of the majority of Catholics, then what?
Unlike many I’ve talked to (Catholics included), I haven’t really felt this event to be an affront in principle – I’m in favour of welcoming pilgrims to hang around and enjoy themselves in Sydney – but in practice I’m beginning to see the stink lines coming off the thing. I might even want to get involved in protesting the curtailment of free speech.
How does one “annoy” the faithful? I’m visualizing people be fined for existing while bi, secular and utilizing contraceptives.
tigtog: I don’t think the “rank and file” and the supporters of hetero-patriarchal bigotry in the RC church are really 2 distinct groups. More like several ambiguously defined groups on a sliding scale.
In Australia, this benefit of the doubt that church rank and file don’t support bigotry – only their heirarchy or extremists do – is extended often enough that both church rank and file and secular political commentators don’t scrutinize church lobbying or funding activities as much as they would comparably influential groups.
Example: a local, very hostile, anti-choice group is entirely RC. But, like the WYD organizers, they don’t state that clearly up front. Consequently I’ve met several members of their church who outright denied it was anything about RC, blaming the “extreme” Family First for it automatically.
If members aren’t informed and visibly opposing their churches more sexist views, they won’t know whether their silence is being read as consent in prejudiced church lobbying. Similar to passive membership in any politically influential group.
Fair point. Ideological groupings are rarely as simple as just two factions, and that’s certainly true of the Catholic membership. We don’t see much Liberation theology in Australia, but that’s an important stream of Catholic thought as well.
So true. I understand the impulse for moderate/passive members of groups to retreat into silence about their distaste for more strident/activist streams in their groups, but they’re never doing their group any favours in the long run in allowing the extremists to be the public voice. It’s especially no good feeling wounded about being associated with the scary extremists if you’re not working to clearly distinguish yourself from them by taking action to set yourselves apart.
I am repulsed and even surprised by this ridiculous peice of anti-free speech legislation. It’s completely over-board, and I think a reflection of religious paranoia that seems to be the aftermath of events like sept11.
However I do want to respond to this point below:
“But why do I and other citizens have to pay for their fun? ….The point is that we are a secular state, and the state should simply not be in the business of promoting religious events, especially if they promote only one (or a few) but not others.”
I think it makes more sense if we look at it as a cultural event in a sense. I am planning on staying well away from the city during the event where possible, however (apart from the latest news) the WYD event only offends me equally to comparable events such as G.W. Bush and the money men’s recent visit.
The city funds, and gets virtually ‘closed down’ for a number of events. Some of them I agree with (eg., reconcilliation walk across the Bridge), and some of them I don’t (that Aussie formula one guy driving his racing car across the Bridge. Urgh…)
Julian Morrow has an opinion piece in today’s SMH.
In it he points out that
Morrow is a lapsed lawyer and says that nobody should rely just on his advice, but it’s certainly an interesting reading of the legislation.