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Where does society end and the rights of the individual begin? That is the true question that lies at the bottom of the Israel Folau controversy. The courts have been given the unenvious task of determining whether an organisation has the right to punish those members who don’t share its views, or if the rights of the individual should be upheld.
Former rugby player, Israel Folau and his lawyers are seeking up to AuS$15 million (including Aus$5m for the irreparable damage done to Folau’s reputation) from Rugby Australia. Folau had had his contract with Rugby Australia terminated after he was found guilty of a high-level breach (the only kind that can result in termination) of their code of conduct. This high-level breach came from Folau’s decision to post a picture on Instagram stating that hell awaited “drunks, homosexuals, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, and idolaters.”
Having failed to reach a settlement with Rugby Australia at a Fair Work hearing, Folau and his lawyers have moved their case on to the Federal Court. Folau himself has merely expressed his desire for Rugby Australia to admit they terminated his contract because of his religious beliefs. In a video, Folau stated: “Hopefully, Rugby Australia will accept that my termination was unlawful and we can reach an agreement about how they can fix that mistake. First and foremost, I am hoping for an apology from Rugby Australia and an acknowledgement that even if they disagree with my views, I should be free to peacefully express my religious beliefs without fear of retribution or punishment.”
According to Rugby Australia’s, Folau’s contract was terminated on the basis that he had violated their requirement to “treat everyone equally, fairly and with dignity regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, cultural or religious background, age or disability.”
Of course, what really lies at the centre of the Folau case is not homophobia, but freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It is really a question of whether Israel Folau should be allowed to express his religious views without suffering economic or judicial penalty.
Both the US Supreme Court and the Australian Law Reform Commission have placed a special emphasis on freedom of speech. The US Supreme Court has noted that all other rights and freedoms are put in peril when freedom of speech is not protected. Similarly, the Australian Law Reform Commission has stated: “freedom of speech is a fundamental common law right. It has been described as the ‘freedom part excellence: for without it, no other freedom can survive.’
Likewise, the Australian Magna Carta Institute stated:
“Freedom of speech is an essential aspect of the rule of law and ensures there is accountability in government. People must be free to express their opinion about the content of laws, as well as the decisions of government or accountability is greatly reduced. Freedom of expression is a boarder term which incorporates free speech, the right to assemble, and other important ways of expressing ideas and opinions. The balance the law of Australia strikes between protecting and restricting freedom expression generally is very important to understand the health of the rule of law in Australia.”
It is remarkable to note, however, that freedom of speech is protected by neither the Constitution of Australia nor by Federal Legislation. In fact, there is a wide array of laws and regulations that place legal restrictions on expression. One cannot publish military secrets, incite criminal activity, or defame or libel another person.
Rather, freedom of speech is considered a common-law right adopted from the Westminster system. It is a feature of our political and legal traditions. The Australian High Court has stated that there is an implied right to freedom of expression embedded in the Australian Constitution (they did not say anything, however, about non-political expression). Likewise, Australia is also a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which lists freedom of expression as a fundamental right.
Freedom of religion is a natural extension of freedom of speech, expression, and association. It is derived from the simple fact that the government has no right to dictate what my beliefs should be. The government has no right to force me, a Christian, to accept gay marriage, abortion, or anything else I find incompatible with my beliefs.
Unlike freedom of speech, freedom of religion is a right guaranteed by the Australian Constitution. Section 116 of the Australian Constitution reads:
Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”
Similarly, freedom of religion is protected by Australian case law. In the case of Church of the New Faith v. Commissioner for Payroll Tax (Vic), the Judges Mason ACJ and Brennan J. commented: “freedom of religion, the paradigm freedom of conscience, is the essence of a free society.” Similarly, in the case of Evans v. New South Wales, the Federal Court decreed that religious freedom as an “important freedom generally accepted in society.”
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. A decision that favours Rugby Australia will give large organisations the legal mandate to bully and intimidate those that don’t agree with their views. If Australia’s Federal Court truly believes in freedom, it will uphold Israel Folau’s right to freedom of speech and religion, and rule against Rugby Australia.
“She’s television generation, she learnt life from Bugs Bunny” muses William Holden in Network, as he confesses his affair with a younger woman to his long-suffering wife. Love it or hate it, television has shaped the way we see the world. And it has been used for years to engineer social change.
It is because of their values that the left has come to dominate the culture. While conservatives value objective facts, those on the left value narrative. This is an important distinction. People develop their worldview based on the stories they are told, not the facts that are presented to them. And while conservatives choose to focus on facts, the left is creating the narrative references that define the world we live in.
As a consequence, left-wing assumptions have come to dominate film and television. And, by extension, it is these assumptions that create the parameters for public discourse. It was through the positive depiction of gay characters in shows like Will and Grace that homosexual relationships came to be more widely accepted. It would be difficult to argue that such depictions played no role in the public’s acceptance of gay marriage. Today shows like Orange is the New Black presents sympathetic transgender characters in an attempt to engineer public acceptance of transgenderism. The left produces television shows and movies that are anti-capitalism, anti-Christian, and anti-West. Unfortunately, the right fails to produce television shows and movies in their defence.
The left embeds its messages through seemingly innocuous narratives and likeable characters. Otherwise morally reprehensible and disagreeable characters are presented in a sympathetic light. By doing this, the creators of these characters are able to coax us into accepting things we otherwise would not. Max Black, one of the protagonists of Two Broke Girls, is a rude, unmotivated, and immoral drug and alcohol user, but she is presented to the audience as a positive role model for women.
Television’s primary power lies in the fact that it allows individuals and organisations to manipulate images, facts, and stories to suit their own purposes. It is through the distortion of facts, impelling narratives, and the creation of morally reprehensible yet sympathetic characters that those who control television have been able to manipulate the public. Whether or not this trend will continue with the advent of the internet is yet to be seen.
A couple of weeks ago, the Democratic Senator from California, Diane Feinstein, brought the public’s attention a letter accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempted rape. According to the letter, an intoxicated Kavanaugh, then a seventeen-year-old high school student in Maryland, had pinned a fifteen-year-old girl – later identified as Christine Blasey Ford – down on a bed at a party, groped her, and attempted to remove her clothing. Kavanaugh covered her mouth to prevent her from screaming. The encounter ended when another man, Mike Judge, jumped on them. Ford claims to have been in fear for her life.
Both Brett Kavanaugh and Mike Judge have strongly denied the allegations that have been made against them. Kavanaugh indicated his willingness to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and stated that:
“This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes – to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday. I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from thirty-six-years-ago, and defend my integrity.”
In addition, the Senate Judiciary Council also received a letter, signed by sixty-five women, attesting to Kavanaugh’s sterling character.
Similarly, Mike Judge also released a statement saying:
“I did not ask to be involved in this matter nor did anyone ask me to be involved. The only reason I’m involved is because Dr. Christine Blasey Ford remembers me as the other person in the room during the alleged assault”
“I have no memory of the alleged incident. Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school but I do not recall the party described in Ford’s letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes.”
Regardless of the outcome of any vote, it is clear that the accusations made against Brett Kavanaugh will have long-ranging political consequence. If Kavanaugh is not appointed, the Republicans may very well lose their opportunity to appoint an originalist to the Supreme Court. It is unlikely that the Senate would be able to vet and confirm any nominee for the Supreme Court in the six weeks leading up to the election. And it is very possible that that election could culminate in a Democrat-controlled Congress. On the other hand, if Kavanaugh is confirmed the Democrats will certainly use the accusations as a political weapon to be wielded against Republicans.
Political consequences notwithstanding, the accusations made against Brett Kavanaugh are, in and of themselves, deeply suspicious. Christine Blasey Ford has failed to provide any evidence or corroborating details which could help prove the validity of her story. The alleged incident occurred almost forty years ago, bears no witnesses aside from the two men accused, and has no physical evidence.
What is truly amazing is that anyone is willing to believe Ford’s accusations in the first place. Ford, a registered Democrat who has financially supported numerous left-wing causes, waited until the man she was accusing was about to become a Supreme Court Justice, has changed her story numerous times, and is unable to remember the time or the location the alleged incident took place.
And any attempt to compel Ford to provide further information have been met with stonewalling and accusations of victim blaming by her supports. When her lawyer, Debra Katz was asked by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota whether Ford should ask other girls at the party to come forward as witnesses, Katz snapped: “that’s not her job to do that. If this is going to be investigated, it should be done by investigators.” It is hard to believe that any just society would condemn a man on such a preposterous lack of evidence.
At some point, society is going to need to have a discussion about what credible accusations of sexual assault look like. One would be hard pressed to argue that an accusation that bears no witnesses, no evidence, and no corroborating details should be powerful enough to destroy a man’s life or career. It is not acceptable that accusations which can be neither proven nor disproven should be used to take someone’s liberties from them.
This week for our theological article, King Alfred Press will be exploring the quest for self-mastery and its importance in living a pious life.
For years, “living in the moment” has been popular advice among self-help gurus. No need to learn from history, no need to think about the consequences of your behaviour, the only thing that matters is satisfying present desires.
However, there is a fundamental problem with living in the moment: it causes you to act impulsively. You become a slave to circumstance. You end up becoming the sort of person who engages in unhealthy, short-term relationships, you become the sort of person who spends without thought and rack up massive credit card debts. Compulsive eaters have been known to literally eat themselves to death, and there is little need to discuss the relationship between crime and the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
The rational antidote, then, to living in the moment is to orientate yourself towards self-mastery. By doing so, we can live pro-active, Godly lives. God expects us to be diligent with what we have and where we are before we move forward with our lives. As it is written in the Gospel according to Luke (chapter sixteen, verse ten):
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are
dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities”
Self-mastery helps you achieve mastery of your own emotions, affections, likes, and desires.
So, how do you go about achieving self-mastery? Well, I cannot pretend to have the answers. However, it is eminently obvious that changing your daily habits is a good place to start.
First, engage in daily prayer. It will help you quieten your mind and communicate with God. Read your Bible or Torah. Remind yourself every day of what God expects of you. Second, practice self-denial. Third, do things deliberately, with purpose – act as though everything you do matters. Fourth, don’t lie – especially to yourself. The only way to overcome your problems is by being honest about them. Fifth, take care of your mind, body, and your surroundings. As Professor Jordan B. Peterson famously advises: “clean your room!” Keep your workspace clean and tidy, put everything where it belongs, make yourself orderly.