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Church and state in NSW

By Jennifer Wilson - posted Thursday, 24 March 2011

The term "religious right" brings to mind ultra-conservative Christians who seek to influence governments to adopt their faith based systems of morality as an integral part of governance. The term originates in the US, and research proves the religious right has close links to the Tea Party Movement.

Commentators such as Chris Lewis and Peter Hartcher have recently remarked on the possibility of a Tea Party emerging in Australia, and it's likely that were something similar (adapted to local conditions) to evolve in this country, our own religious right would back such a movement.

The religious right in NSW


In NSW the Liberals have directed their Upper House second preferences in next weekend's election to the Christian Democrats. This decision increases Upper House CDP candidate Paul Green's chances of being elected - and a Christian Democrats and Shooters and Fishers party controlled Legislative Assembly.

Religions already have considerable influence in state politics. For example, church schools in NSW are exempted from anti-discrimination legislation in that they may expel homosexual studentsentirely on the grounds of their sexual preference. Both major parties support this exemption.

Churches are also exempt from anti-discrimination legislation in the matter of employmentbeing free to refuse employment or to sack employees solely on the grounds of their sexual preference. This is also supported by both major parties.

In 2009, the Wesley Mission in NSW won the right to refuse a same sex couple as foster carers. There was no dispute that the applicants were rejected on the basis of their homosexuality. The Wesley Mission argued that they were exempt under section 56 of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977.

The ACL in Parliament House

The Australian Christian Lobby recently held a Make it Count pre-election event in Parliament House, with Premier Kristina Keneally and Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell as speakers.


According to the ACL website: The big policy commitment from the night was from both leaders was not to legislate away key protections for religious freedom on employing staff in Christian organisations.

The rise, stumble, and rise again of David Clarke

When considering the religious right in NSW, it's impossible to overlook Liberal Member of the NSW Upper House, David Clarke.

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About the Author

Dr Jennifer Wilson worked with adult survivors of child abuse for 20 years. On leaving clinical practice she returned to academia, where she taught critical theory and creative writing, and pursued her interest in human rights, popular cultural representations of death and dying, and forgiveness. Dr Wilson has presented papers on human rights and other issues at Oxford, Barcelona, and East London Universities, as well as at several international human rights conferences. Her academic work has been published in national and international journals. Her fiction has also appeared in several anthologies. She is currently working on a secular exploration of forgiveness, and a collection of essays. She blogs at

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