My house shall be a place of prayer but you have made it a den of theives

Jesus went into the temple and cast out them that sold and bought in the temple

And he taught them, saying, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But you have made it a den of thieves.”

While The Cross is relieved at the reduction in hate speak with the demise of the Abbot clown show it is hard not to miss the steady flow of quotable quotes from the fundamentalist loonies who claim to speak on behalf of ‘right thinking’ or ‘god fearing’ ‘Australians’.

One stream of thought that has completely disappeared in the glare of innovation and inclusion is the ranting by the puppets of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) that environmental groups should be stripped of their charitable status.

The argument was roughly that because these groups spent time advocating on behalf of the voiceless and calling the government to account instead of doing  “good works” they do not deserve the implicit support of the government in the form of tax breaks.

“Why” blathered Queensland LNP Senator Matt Canavan, “should environmental activists who break the law to further their ends receive the support of the taxpayer?”

Environment Minister Greg Hunt backed then PM Abbot in ranting against “Lawfare” as a danger to economic progress. All this ignoring that when China, India or Indonesia put the economic interests of international corporations ahead of their people we accuse them of the violation of human rights.

The government went as far as establishing an enquiry to audit 650 registered charities with an environmental focus.

The fact is that the environmental activists in question were actually pointing out that the government had broken the law, rather than breaking the law themselves. Besides this, and most pertinent to the theme of this article, the underlying problem is that the 100 activist groups identified in the government enquiry as deserving an audit between them received tax breaks of around $100 million.

This fades into comparison with the $31billion received year in and year out by the religious organisations that have been proven culpable for the cover up of sexual abuse of the people in their care over five decades.

If ever there was a case for stripping charitable status from an organisation, exempt from government scrutiny, that refuses to participate openly and transparently with the police then the Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse has well and truly nailed Australia’s churches.

It is illuminating that the billions being spent on border security and fear mongering have the impact of vilifying Islam and promoting so-called Christian values. We have elected MPs calling for preference to be given to Christian refugees and one Senator publicly calling on national radio for a tracking collar to be forcibly applied to the Grand Mufti.

The reality is that the ideals of both religions are basically identical. So too are the excesses of the fundamentalists of either faith. As Monty Python used to joke, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. The line was funny in the relative peace of the seventies when religious bigotry seemed to belong to an ancient and receding past.

The destruction of all iconography by the fundamentalist protestant, Oliver Cromwell, is a cultural crime on par with the ongoing destruction of Christian and Muslim shrines in Israel, the Coptic churches in Egypt or the Yazidis in Syria.

The list goes on.

The point is that religious fundamentalism has come back with a vengeance and is tearing our democratic institutions apart. Independently of that, the christian institutions that have formed at the heart of our society have proven to be riddled with the cancers of corruption, self-interest and abuse. There is no logical reason why the State should continue to prop up and support these institutions that have so badly failed the people they promised to protect.

It is not simply that the government passively avoids charging these criminal organisations tax, it actively outsources the operation of welfare services to these organisations on an ongoing basis. It is cheaper for them to outsource operations to organisations with large volunteer workforces and that are prepared to cut a few corners than it is to deliver the services itself.

At the same time, secular organisations are denied funding on the basis that they advocate for change in government policy on behalf of their clients, thereby engaging in “political activity.” Queensland’s Newman Government axed Family Planning services (along with other sexual health services and indigenous health services) across the state, at the same time as pouring money into Catholic run services who refuse to provide abortions, which are still illegal in that state.

Now that wife-beating and murder has got the media attention it deserves, governments are pouring money into the sector and again, the church services are getting the lion’s share of the money. These faith-based providers use the “deserving poor” as a criteria for determining elegibility, turning away women with drug problems, illegitimate children, or incomplete visa applications.

And so, rectifying the unwarranted power and influence of religion in society is not simply a matter of personally turning away from the Church, it is a matter of forcing governments to divert the annual $31billion gift into the hands of community welfare organisations that work at the grass roots. These organisations are accountable to the community in which they work, instead of to an opaque bureaucracy that protects itself at the cost of the people it is supposed to serve.

The difference is critical.

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