Don't privatise religion: Christian thinktank

Sydney Cardinal George Pell and NSW Green MP Lee Rhiannon continued to trade blows yesterday as James Haire from the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture defended the right of religions to involve themselves in politics.

The Australian reports that the Uniting Church's former president Rev Professor James Haire, speaking at the Australian Partnership of Religious Organisations conference in Sydney yesterday, defended the right of religions to involve themselves in politics.

Professor Haire said privatising religion to the nave, the temple or the cloister was a foolish and futile way of dealing with the variety of legitimate views held by people of faith.

The paper also reports that relations between Cardinal Pell and Ms Rhiannon worsened yesterday when he classed the MP as an "intolerant parliamentarian" and she accused him of making her a scapegoat.

Last week, Ms Rhiannon referred Sydney's Catholic Archbishop to the upper house parliamentary privileges committee over his warning to Catholic lower house MPs that there could be consequences for their place in church life if they voted to overturn the ban on embryonic stem cell research.

The conscience vote in the lower house went 65-26 in favour of the bill.

Cardinal Pell told a national inter-faith conference yesterday that religious leaders must "insist on our right to the public expression of religious issues".

Afterwards he said: "I'm not sure that Lee Rhiannon could be characterised as particularly tolerant and sympathetic to Christian positions. She's got, I think, a considerable history in this area - I don't have book, chapter and verse on it here but it is being collated in my office."

Ms Rhiannon hit back, accusing the cardinal of "misrepresenting the situation".

"When I have spoken of this issue I have always said Cardinal Pell has a right to be involved in the debate, but he did step over the line and talk about consequences. He was obviously looking for leverage," she said.

"Other MPs used much stronger language than I did. He's now trying to blame me."

Cardinal Pell said he would continue his lobbying efforts when the bill reaches the upper house later this month.

Other speakers at the gathering, entitled "Australian Faiths: Building Community Together", included Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence of the Great Synagogue, Professor Des Cahill and Professor Gary Bouma.

Pell's row with MP escalates (The Australian, 19/6/07)

I refuse to be silenced: Pell lambasts MPs as intolerant (Sydney Morning Herald, 19/6/07)

Pell investigated for possible contempt (Sydney Morning Herald, 19/6/07)
Pell hints at continued stem cell vote lobbying (ABC News, 18/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia | Australian Faiths Building Community Together Forum
Lee Rhiannon (Greens)
Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture
Defending his right to speak: Cardinal George Pell (Sunday Profile 17/6/07
Barry Hickey (Wikipedia)
Cloning (Wikipedia)
George Pell (Wikipedia)

Pell slams "stalinist" parliamentary contempt probe (CathNews, 18/6/07)
WA speaker raps Hickey (CathNews, 15/6/07)
Pell sticks to stem cell guns (CathNews, 12/6/07)
WA parliament may reprimand Hickey (CathNews, 8/6/07)
Anglicans, Baptists back Pell (CathNews, 8/6/07)
Coast to coast controversy over stem cell vote (CathNews, 7/6/07)
Catholic pols defy stem cell communion threat (CathNews, 6/6/07)
Pell slams "open slather" for stem cell research (CathNews, 5/6/07)
Life office slams human "sub-class" Vic cloning law (CathNews, 11/5/07)
Hart confronts Bracks over cloning legislation (CathNews, 12/4/07)
Bracks defies Pope on cloning (CathNews, 19/3/07)
Archbishop Hart condemns cloning laws (CathNews, 14/3/07)
Christianity not driver in cloning vote: Garrett (CathNews, 19/12/06)
Christian opposition fails to stop cloning bill passage (CathNews, 7/12/06)
Late amendment puts cloning bill passage in doubt (CathNews, 6/12/06)
Premiers face stem cell backlash as Hart criticises debate (CathNews, 24/7/06)
Catholics divided over stem cells (CathNews, 14/7/06)
Don't lift ban on cloning, says Brennan (CathNews, 23/6/06)

19 Jun 2007