STEPHANIE Bastiaan’s excellent piece at Quadrant last week raised some very important questions about the far left-wing Andrews government’s prohibition of other-than-private Christian observance in Victoria. “I can catch a train, visit a shopping centre or stroll through a packed hardware megastore, but I can’t visit an empty church and pray in the presence of God,” she noted. It is irrational, certainly; brown-shirted hubris to advertise sternly that Victorians will have no other gods but Danny Boy during This Difficult Time, yes.
Also behind the animosity in what its number plates could quite truthfully promote as the ‘Get Pell State’ is the Premier’s notorious hostility to the biggest assembly of ’em all – the Catholic Church. His government and his police did, after all, spend tens of millions of dollars to frame Cardinal George Pell and end his life. And why? Because he was a trenchant and formidable cultural enemy of the left – including the “Safe Schools” groomers memorably depicted as leather-clad perverts by the late great Bill Leak. If Premier Andrews could get away with it, I have no doubt special lockdown exceptions would already have been afforded mosques and perhaps the less Tractarian of the Anglican parishes and dioceses. But disempowering the Catholics is an ideologically satisfying opportunity that couldn’t be passed up.
To be fair to Andrews, however – which nobody should ever feel obliged to be – he’s far from alone in the West’s pandemic pantheon of gubernatorial martinets. Post World War II, we have never seen police chasing a hearse down a street and harassing the Jewish mourners gathered to farewell its beloved passenger, for example. It took the noxious, baleful combination of coronavirus and a New York version of Andrews – Democrat Bill de Blasio – to realise those memorable scenes. Mayor de Blasio had singled out Jews for special treatment prior to the blitzkrieg.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom’s ban on religious assembly came to a legal head in federal court following a police raid on a service at the Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi. After dispersing the congregation, reports say officers posted a notice on the building declaring it’s “nonessential use” a “public nuisance.” A year ago, Newsom was on a “health care tour” when he blasted state legislatures that had passed laws restricting abortion. “How dare they,” he Greta-wailed. The Governor told supporters that night in San Diego – many of whom were dressed in pink to show their support for Planned Parenthood – that his upcoming budget would include $10 million for “abortion services.” This is an insight into what is considered essential in the mind of a modern leftist tyrant. Daniel Andrews – the only political leader in history known to have tricked a population into not hugging their mothers on Mothers’ Day – is no less committed to state-orchestrated death sold as compassion. The “save lives” mantra of both men – and all the de Blasios and Cuomos like them – is the sickest irony of the pandemic. They have a vested interest in silencing the religious.
Let us imagine for a moment how coronavirus would have been managed if the Commonwealth and states had not the power to “lock down” an entire country. For a range of ‘selfish’ reasons, businesses, social organisations and institutions of all kinds would have been competing to deploy (as also to showcase and advertise) the most advanced prophylaxes known to be efficacious. The churches might have been more innovative with their own bespoke measures to safeguard their older-than-average congregants than the state “experts” who bungled ship arrivals and nursing homes. Companies, consumers and churchgoers would have made choices for themselves and their families pursuant to information made available to them, and according to necessity as they judged it. Remembering that pandemics rise and fall with bell-curved predictability anyway, would this counter-scenario have been any less successful than the Stasi version for which politicians and ‘officials’ are now congratulating themselves? Provided governments took care of those things rightly within their purview – like controlling the nation’s borders – then no, not necessarily.
Even if this is unrealistically optimistic, it cannot be denied that the LFR – the liberty fatality rate – of such an approach would have been zero. Why is it unthinkable that religious believers in Victoria should be free to make their own decisions about how to conduct services, or whether they can safely attend them, but uncontroversial that they can choose (under VAD laws) to be killed? It’s not as though the former is alone potentially injurious to others. Many people are damaged by killing the old and infirm, starting with all those involved – volunteers and executioners – then spreading to others made to feel worthlessly burdensome and to a society irrevocably coarsened by the acts. Libertarians and Christians form a unity ticket in this important sense: the essential is not always the material or the merely utilitarian. It is more often – and far more deeply – what is believed and what is felt; what is exercised not by leave or licence, but as of right.