Australian politics: Archbishops critical of atheist PM

Australia holds a national election and so far the campaign has focused on the perceived flaws of the current Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. She’s an unmarried, childless, co-habitator with — as some see them — pendulous earlobes, and all that counts against the PM say her opponents.

The Australian reports on three opponents in its story Perth’s Catholic Archbishop stirs fears about atheism.

“I had no intention of attacking Julia Gillard at all. My point was the future, not the present – that if the people who don’t subscribe to any religion get stronger, we might have a repeat of what happened in Europe, where the church was sidelined,” he said.

The archbishop’s comments follow attacks by two other church leaders in recent months – Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen [referring it appears to his Easter sermon] and Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Cardinal George Pell [“Last century we tried godlessness on a grand scale and the effects were devastating: Nazism, Stalinism, Pol Pot-ery, mass murder, abortion and broken relationships – all promoted by state-imposed atheism”]- who warned against atheism.

The Perth archbishop sparked yesterday’s debate with a statement he sent to The West Australian newspaper on July 22, which was not published until yesterday. Titled “Comments on the forthcoming election”, it said many Christians were concerned “someone who does not believe in God may not endorse the Christian traditions of respect for human life, for the sanctity of marriage and the independence of churches.

But another archbishop disagreed with his peers,

Perth Anglican Archbishop Roger Herft has clashed with his Catholic counterpart over Julia Gillard’s atheism.

He warned it was “unhelpful and untrue” to suggest the Christian faith had a monopoly on moral integrity.

The Anglican leader cautioned against making simplistic assessments of religious beliefs in an election context and said Ms Gillard had assured the electorate she would respect people with religious convictions.

“Any statement which portrays the Christian faith as having some type of exclusivity to be the sole arbiter on matters of moral integrity and just policy-making are unhelpful and untrue,” Archbishop Herft told The Weekend Australian. “Christians need to remind themselves that those who do not profess the Christian faith are still capable of adopting an ethical and moral framework which assists in public policy decision-making for the common good.”

Is it fair to say, based on these remarks, that the archbishops are making political statements to their flock? Not that it could be imagined in this country, if there were an atheist running for president is it conceivable that an archbishop would stop and declare atheists hate God?

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