Right to attack Rudd on religion: Abbott

Declaring that he admires Kevin Rudd as a "serious Christian", Health Minister Tony Abbott, a Catholic, says that that it is not sectarian to question the Opposition Leader's religious credentials.

"If it was not sectarian for Rudd to write a 5000-word essay for The Monthly last October proclaiming the importance of his religion to his politics, how can it be sectarian to probe exactly what Rudd meant?" Mr Abbott asks in an opinion article in today's Australian.

Mr Abbott says that Labor frontbencher Stephen Smith accused him on the ABC's Insiders program of "making outrageous attacks on Kevin and Kevin's religion", of bringing "religion on to the floor of the parliament" and of perpetrating "the most blatant example of divisive sectarian politics that we've seen since the '50s and '60s".

"Making such a toxic charge is evidence of Labor's desperation to gag debate about Rudd's credibility," Mr Abbott says.

"For the record, I admire the fact that Rudd is a serious Christian. At the swearing-in of the new parliament in 2004, fully half of his lower house Labor colleagues chose to take an affirmation rather than an oath on the Bible.

"Under these circumstances, it takes guts to declare that Christianity has a role in public and private life," Mr Abbott continued, adding that Mr Rudd was also the Labor mainstay of the Parliamentary prayer group.

"Late last year, Rudd joined the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasurer in opposing the recent legislation to permit human cloning.

"I just wish he'd declared his position soon enough to influence his Labor colleagues' votes," Mr Abbott said.

"My problem is not with Rudd trying to attract more Christians into the Labor Party. My issue is Rudd's attempt to present Christianity as merely an endorsement of the ALP's present policy positions and Christians as little more than Labor activists on Sunday," Mr Abbott concluded.

Tony Abbott: Trying to be all things to all people (The Australian, 6/3/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Tony Abbott website
Kevin Rudd, ALP

Abbott claims DLP heritage for Liberal Party (CathNews, 30/1/07)
Imagine politics without Christians: Abbott tells critics (CathNews, 30/1/07)
Echoes of Labor Split in Vic election shock (CathNews, 13/12/06)

6 Mar 2007