YVONNE PATTERSON. An Australian Fairy Story for 2020: Religious Freedom

There comes a point in public discussion about policy or legislative proposals where academic analysis isn’t enough to get to the heart of the matter.

The Australian Government has announced legislation for Religious Freedom. This is deeply flawed and from my perspective, inhumane legislation. So instead of an ‘analytical’ piece, here’s an Australian Fairy Story for 2020.

Mummy tell me the one about the Story-groups. “Well dear:

One day, long ago, in a large dry island near the Antarctica, which is now much smaller than it used to be, there were so many big fires that the man in the Hightower, who was supposed to be the leader, became frightened and did not know what to do because he had not learned any science in his school.

So he tried to turn everyone’s attention away from the fires and made a proclamation saying ‘verily I say unto you – from this day forward everyone will only live in their own Story-groups’. He said that now ‘only people who had the same Story can use that Story-groups’ schools, hospitals, shops, aged people’s homes, sports clubs and everything’.

But there were a lot of different Story-groups and they all had their own chapters, so there were tens and tens and tens of them. In a few towns people began building their own hospitals and schools just for the people in their own Story-groups. Soon there were rows and rows of hospitals and schools each with their own Story-keys, because you had to answer special questions about their Story to get in. If you were not part of a hospital’s Story-group you could not get in. So you missed out.

The small Story-groups did not have enough teachers and doctors to set up their own hospitals and schools and they were not allowed in other Story-groups’ hospitals and schools. So they missed out.

After a while, in these towns, lots of people in the big Story-groups decided to leave and start their own new Story-groups. Very soon everyone only had very small Story-groups to live in and had no teachers or doctors. So most people missed out.

The man in the Hightower kept hiding in his house until one day he came down into a town where everyone lived just in their own Story-groups. He said he was sick and needed a doctor. But there were no doctors and there were no teachers to teach people to become doctors anymore. Also, he did not know the right Story-keys to get into their hospitals, even if they had one.

The man got very angry and stamped his feet and said: ‘what will happen to me?’ The people said: ‘you made the proclamation that everyone should live in their own Story-groups so you must live in your own Story’. ‘But I have nobody else in my Story’ he said. They just shrugged their shoulders and said ‘well that is your law, so there is nothing we can do about it’. So he just had to go back home all by himself.

However, in most towns, most people knew that the proclamation made by the man in the Hightower was not right and was just plain silly. So in most towns they turned off the TV, radio and internet channels that came from his tower so they did not have to listen to the nonsense words that he spoke.

So in most towns, most people decided to arrange their lives properly by getting together with lots and lots of people from many other Story-groups so that in these towns everybody got to have really good schools and hospitals with lots of well trained teachers and doctors. In these places the people decided that nobody needed to have a special Story-key to get into any schools or hospitals or other places because that was simply ‘just not fair’ and just ‘far too silly for words’.

And most people were very happy”.

Yvonne Patterson is a member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, a retired clinical psychologist and retired senior WA State Government policy director with experience in human services including health, mental health, disability, community and justice services, living in Perth WA.

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