Cardinal George Pell and the Australian Christian Lobby led by Jim Wallace have once again joined forces in the public square - this time to advocate that Christians not vote in the forthcoming election for the “anti-Christian” Greens who the Cardinal describes as “sweet camouflaged poison”.
Jim Wallace launched the initial salvo in The Australian describing the Greens as “a party whose philosophical father, Peter Singer, clearly places the rights of animals above the rights of children, but at the same time endorses sex with animals, which presumably are robbed of any right of consent”.
On Sunday His Eminence took up the call in his regular Sunday Telegraph column stating: “In 1996 the Green leader Bob Brown coauthored a short book The Greens with the notorious philosopher Peter Singer (now at Princeton University in USA), who rejects the unique status of humans and supports infanticide, as well as abortion and euthanasia.”
The Cardinal has urged his listeners and readers “to examine the policies of the Greens on their website and judge for themselves how thoroughly anti-Christian they are”.
Clearly the Greens will not be gaining the votes or preferences of Pell and Wallace. But was it principled and prudent for them to make this public declaration? Could not a conscientious Christian still vote for the Greens? And are their policies more anti-Christian than those of the major parties?
Let's be clear: the Greens are not in the contest for government and they are very unlikely to have much, if any, say in the House of Representatives. Their political purchase after the election will be in the Senate where they will most probably have the balance of power.
Some Christians, myself included, think that it is never a good thing for the government of the day to control the Senate. You just have to look at what happened to the Howard government in its last term when it controlled the Senate. Hubris set in; the usual rational debate about the limits on WorkChoices was abandoned because the government was assured passage of its overbroad, ideological legislation. When the government does not control the Senate, it needs to garner support for legislation by putting coherent arguments in order to attract a handful of Senators on the cross benches.
In days past, those cross benches were occupied by the Democratic Labor Party, which boasted Catholic credentials, and then the Democrats, who were just as secular as the Greens.
A thoughtful Christian is entitled to consider the workings of the Senate when deciding where to allocate preferences in their voting. A thoughtful Christian could give their first or second party preference to a minor party like the Greens confident that this minor party would hold to account whichever party is in power on contested legislative proposals.
Some Christians, myself included, think that the Greens are not classifiable as straight out anti-Christian. While some of their members may be (much like Mark Latham was in the Labor Party), others like Lin Hatfield Dodds have given distinguished public service in their churches for decades.
On some policy issues, I daresay the Greens have a more Christian message than the major parties.
Consider their stand on overseas aid, refugees, stewardship of creation and the environment, public housing, human rights protection, and income management. On all these issues, the Greens are far more in synch with the periodic utterances of most Church leaders than either of the major political parties. The Greens have been the only party to hold back the tide against the race to the bottom in the asylum seeker debate since Kevin Rudd was replaced as Prime Minister.
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