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Abbott defends Pope on secular Australia worry

Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott has supported Pope John Paul II's criticism of the growing level of secularism in Australia, suggesting that people with religious beliefs are often wrongly criticised for expressing their opinions.

Mr Abbott, who is a Catholic, himself suffered criticism for his recent assertion that it is a tragedy that 100,000 abortions are performed in Australia each year.

Asked to comment about remarks by Pope John Paul II criticising the growing level of secularism in Australia, he said: "I think there is a tendency when someone makes the kind of speech that I made the other day to say, `How dare you contaminate politics with religious values'."

"And yet people who have no values whatsoever, or certainly no values which deserve the name of religious values, they're okay," he said. "Now the thing is values are values, people are entitled to their values and they're entitled to argue for them."

Mr Abbott said the Pope respects the proper separation of church and state.

He said there would be no change in the government's policy towards Medicare funding of abortions, but he believed he had done the right thing by criticising the number of abortions performed in Australia.

"There is not a constituency for a change of policy in this area, but I said my piece, let's see if there is public debate, let's see if the culture changes," he said.

Don't muzzle Christians: Abbott (The Age 28/3/04)

Meet the Press: Tony Abbott (Ten Network 28/3/04)
John Paul II's Address to Australian Bishops: Pernicious Ideology of Secularism Has Found Fertile Ground

For more links, see previous story

29 Mar 2004