Same-sex marriage survey sees freedom for all lost in the post

The overwhelming number of human beings that have ever lived never knew freedom. They were slaves to tribal leaders, feudal lords, emperors, kings or ideological dictators. Truly free societies have never rested on freedom in the abstract but on particular freedoms.

These include the freedoms of conscience, speech, association and to own property. Not some philosophically abstract “freedom”, but these freedoms define liberalism, and free societies exist only to the extent that these freedoms exist. All of these freedoms are perpetually under threat somewhere, but I would like to focus on one that is often forgotten but no less imperilled today.

Freedom of conscience is the freedom not to be forced to act contrary to our deepest held values, those values without which we cannot even imagine ourselves being the same person. Everyone has a morality by which they live and therefore has an interest in freedom of conscience, for this freedom is the freedom from being forced to violate it and in doing so assaulting our own sense of self-respect.

Perhaps the best way to appreciate the significance of freedom of conscience is to imagine what society would be like in its absence. In fact, we don’t need to imagine, for history is our guide. The classical world was described by Benjamin Constant as one in which “no importance was given to individual independence, neither in relation to opinions, nor to labour, nor, above all, to religion”. Democratic Athens’ greatest citizen, Socrates, was executed for falling foul of community opinion. In the 1530s, Sir Thomas More found Henry VIII’s oath of supremacy over the church deeply offensive to his conscience as a Catholic. More, one of his age’s greatest statesmen, scholars and lawyers, was beheaded in 1535. Alexander Solzhenitsyn described his 20th-century Russian experience of a society with no freedom for conscience, one of forced labour, torture and death, all under the insidious banner of freedom and equality.

Sadly, there are many poignant examples today of regimes where freedom of conscience is no longer protected.

The degree to which we abhor these societies is the degree to which we should cherish the very freedoms whose absence would move us in that perilous direction. But these freedoms are being treated with increasing indifference in our own back yard under the well-intentioned cover of the same old abstract slogans. Sadly, the slavish pursuit of equality produces only slaves to equality, and slaves are no longer free; such is the paradox of good intention uninformed by history.

Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick illustrates this paradox of freedom: A free society will naturally develop economic inequalities as free people seek their own individual economic advantage. The only way to increase economic equality is to decrease freedom, and perfect economic equality is the perfect absence of freedom. It is no coincidence that the most unfree (and impoverished) societies have been those that stressed equality as their overarching ideal.

Equality movements that pursue “uniformity of opinion” bring extinction to the ever-fragile state of freedom. Another Harvard political philosopher, John Rawls, noted that in a free society, without coercion of thought, the natural state regarding questions of morality and human identity is a state of disagreement. The only way to get all people to agree on heartfelt issues is to force them to do so. Freedom and universal agreement on controversial moral questions are incompatible. If you want the latter you must abolish the former, and that’s precisely what is happening around the world, and in grave danger of happening in Australia.

The ideology of “diversity”, which seeks to reset views on sexuality, gender and marriage, has emerged as the most serious bandwagon threat to democratic freedoms today. The aspiration of this movement is for a society in which everyone must conform on the issues of sexuality, same-sex marriage and transgenderism.

The modus operandi of the movement has been to use anti-discrimination and hate-speech laws to punish people and organisations who disagree. This is the strategy of “jamming” called for by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen in their influential 1989 book on gay political strategy, After the Ball. It calls for unrelenting personal attack and vilification on any who offer an alternative view. This has been a hallmark of the same-sex marriage campaign and a dangerous precedent in any society where viable responsible debate is essential to the maintenance of freedom.

It is deeply perplexing that so many of our elected representatives seem unconcerned or uninformed about the potential dangers to the fragile rights of a free society in play across the Western world.

As Dyson Heydon has forcefully noted, modern elites do not desire tolerance but demand unconditional surrender. It is particularly concerning to me that so many who stand in the liberal and conservative traditions appear strangely unmoved and unengaged in the face of these potential dangers.

West Australian Liberal senator Dean Smith’s bill guarantees only “the right of clergy and religious institutions” to decline participation in same-sex marriage services and celebrations. There is by omission no recognition of the likelihood of damage to the freedom of conscience for ordinary citizens and their businesses. Smith and many of his colleagues seem unmoved by the encroachments on freedom of speech and conscience already demonstrated in Australia.

Perhaps the importance of freedom of conscience is best appreciated if we put the shoe on the other foot. Consider the debate about forcing cake makers to supply same-sex weddings against their conscience. Should a caterer who happens also to be a LGBTI activist be forced to cater for an Australian Christian Lobby conference? Should a proudly gay baker be forced to bake a cake with an anti-same-sex marriage message on it?

To say that in the case of the bakers their refusal to make a same-sex marriage wedding cake was because the clients were gay is the same as saying that the gay caterer refused services because his customers were Christians. No, in both cases it is not the identity of the customers that is the issue, it is the activity of facilitating the celebration of something to which they had deep conscientious objections.

The Liberal Party is in peril of forgetting that there is more to free societies than free markets.

For Australians this is potentially very serious, for in our celebrated casual way we lack strong protections for freedom of conscience and speech.

Smith’s exemptions approach arguably does more harm than good, for it assumes freedom of conscience is of worth only to professional religionists and not to all Australians. This weakens even further the standing of this important democratic right and makes it an easy target for those who would lobby to erase this exemption and similar exemptions that may remain in state legislation.

Another, more worthy John Anderson, former professor of philosophy at the University of Sydney, once described the life of liberty as “a perilous and fighting life”. Liberty does not defend itself, it must be defended by those who understand its importance to our culture, which is so rare in the face of history; it must be defended by those who understand its fragile nature. Whatever the outcome of the postal survey, the question now facing us in Australia is whether we are prepared to defend vigorously our essential liberties.

John Anderson was Nationals leader and deputy prime minister from 1999 to 2005. He was the member for Gwydir in NSW from 1989 to 2007.

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Avatar for Ben

Hollow words from a former advocate for farmers, then advocate for CSG. He will say whatever whomever is paying, 

Avatar for David

John Anderson's quote of Robert Nozick is spot-on.  The objective of equality of outcomes, as opposed to equality of opportunity, is a totalitarian myth.

Yet despite the abject and gruesome failure of Marxism wherever it has been tried, fools still push it in 2017.

Avatar for Col

If only today's Liberal Party had your conviction for freedoms. We miss you and your generation in power. That's why so many like minded concerned citizens are leaving and joining the Australian Conservatives. Its about being true to your beliefs (and I don't mean religion). 

Avatar for David


If you think Anderson has a good level of conviction for freedoms why doesn't he support SSM?

Avatar for Laurie

@David @Col Col, you have just emphasised the problem with the Yes voters and the general intolerance of the left, PCs and fellow travellers.

Avatar for Stephen

@David @Laurie @Col He doesn't believe it's marriage - plain and simple.  As many don't.  He doesn't believe that 2 plus 2 can ever equal 5.  All of the legal freedoms afforded married heterosexual couples are available to gay couples. This is not about freedom, but about identity.  Anderson is a man of his convictions - and you should be grateful for it, because he won't make a word mean something other than what it does.  Leave that for totalitarianism.  

Avatar for Greg Doyle

Great article. It just reinforces my always held belief that no government law will ever change my freedom of conscience.  

Avatar for a

First the social activists told us they simply wanted tolerance for their ‘problem’. Centuries of well founded standards were eroded away to allow a compassionate view to take their place, even to the extent of denying normal health protocols and removing children’s rights to a normal society like that which every Australian, until now, has enjoyed. History will condemn our slovenly capitulation to this Orwellian experiment. Attempting to normalise mental disabilities so that those afflicted can supposedly feel better about themselves leaves us rudderless as a society. Normalising the abnormal will result in no more abnormalities! Hurrah! We owe it to our children and grandchildren to hold the line or risk ultra confusion in impressionable young minds. The word pederast entered our lexicon for a very good reason and it used to cause revulsion.

Avatar for David


The first step was recognizing that homosexuality isn't a 'problem'. How can children's rights have been removed when homosexuality has always been with us and is part of 'normal society'. Nor is homosexuality a mental disability.

Avatar for william

Thankyou Mr Anderson for your wonderful article.. I demand?? a copy of this article be sent to every Uni Dean in Australia, and for that matter every educator in Australia. 

Avatar for Robyn

@william And to every MP, most particularly Senators like Jacqui Lambie. It could be explained to her.

Robyn S.

Avatar for Mick

Proponents of the "religious freedom" exemption appear to be totally unaware of the precariously slippery slope that they are standing at the edge of.  The argument that one should be able to ignore a secular law (in this case, potentially the law that marriage can be between any two people not just a man and a women) because of religious beliefs is exactly the same argument proffered by Islamic fundamentalists who refuse to stand for a judge in court and essentially the same argument that has been used by those advocating for the application of sharia law to Islamic communities.

The crux of such arguments is that religion supersedes the law and that is not how a secular society operates.   We live in a society of laws where you can freely believe whatever you like but you must respect the law.

Avatar for Catherine

@Mick- no, crux of the argument is about core liberties ie. freedom from government restriction and intrusion with respect to individuals’ rights to freedom of speech, conscience, religious belief, assembly etc.

It’s the freedom to live without risk of the state dictating to you- via the enforcers of identity politics at the HRC- the bounds of what you can say, think, practise etc.

It’s the basic right to be able to say- “I believe in the traditional definition of marriage, despite any arbitrary changes in the law now or in the future”- without being prosecuted. The right to express one’s views on anything and everything, for that matter. Get it?

Avatar for Virginia

Excellent article –thank you. I appreciate you pointing out (clearly and simply) that the freedom Australian’s currently enjoy is historically rare, and, history shows that unless we actively look after freedom – it disappears and is replaced by something evil.

John Anderson notes that a  free society necessarily contains people with different opinions and views and who are mature enough to debate ideas in a non-violent manner. Forcing everyone to be the same is not diversity – and it’s not democracy – sounds more like socialism and communism (oh, and those ideologies worked out really well….for the few at the top anyway…)

The CREEPY THING is (and why many people rightly feel a deep sense of unease) is that SSM is not really about diversity or gay ‘marriage’ at all – gay people already have equal rights at law. They can simply call  their union something else – like a ‘love is love’ union.  That way we have REAL DIVERSITY, and we can also build up statistics and a body of knowledge on child raising, divorce rates etc under marriage and ‘love is love’ unions – which can only be helpful.

So – if it’s not about diversity and it’s not about gay ‘marriage’ - what is this TIRESOME MATTER really all about? - it’s the so called ‘progressives’/Left and THEIR NUMBER 1 HOBBY/misguided social experiment (from the comfort of their expensive arm chairs) which is to consign Western democratic society and its hard won freedoms and institutions (like marriage) – to the dust bin.

Yet again, DIVERSITY is a smokescreen, and I don’t buy it.  

If people truly want DIVERSITY - our society will actually be more diverse if we maintain traditional marriage and have, for example, ‘love is love’ unions.

Avatar for Jim

When I read diversity in today's world I hear divisiveness.

Avatar for David

So why should people now be slaves to the religious?

Avatar for Frank

@David Nope. I tried very hard, but could not find Mr Anderson advocating slavery anywhere in the article. It seemed to me that he was actually promoting freedom. How odd that you didn't notice that.

Avatar for Frank

@David @Frank Glad you now see that he's promoting freedom. However, once again, after scanning the article, I don't see any promotion of freedom for a specific group. The article seems to be promoting the principles of freedom in general. It's almost like you're reading a different article David. Perhaps you should take off those pink-coloured glasses so you can read what Mr Anderson actually wrote rather than what you think he wrote.

Avatar for David

@Frank @David 

I saw from the start that he was promoting freedom. Unfortunately it was only on behalf of himself and the like-minded, not everyone. Hence my comment. I don't wear glasses of any hue.

Avatar for Mick

John, have a chat to John Howard and Peter Costello... mate we need you guys back in the parliament of this nation. It has lost its way so much as to be unrecognisable from the legacy you men left. You are a good man and an excellent apologist on this matter.

Avatar for Mark2

A slimy, underhand, quasi intellectual piece of rubbish to hide the fact that it is supporting bigotry and bias, working through the disingenuous lens of faux morality to exclude and discriminate. 

Avatar for Mark2

@roger You don't extend his "argument" at all. Simple negative comment, designed to garner "likes" from the mutually deficient in ability to put together any rational perspective.

Avatar for alan

@Mark2 All arguments reveal bias, the rest of your comment is ad hominem tripe demonstrating the very problem that JA, so eloquently exposes.

Avatar for Mark2

@Catherine Never read, seen nor heard of it. If it displays a desire to expose irrational hatred and bigotry behind supposed conscientious morality, I'm all for it. The article and the subsequent support for it, in these comments, is an insight into the ability of the (mainly) religious right to either cloud their inner prejudice with a fantasy of reason, or their ability to lie through their teeth.

Avatar for Catherine

@Mark2: “Simple negative comment, designed to garner "likes" from the mutually deficient in ability to put together any rational perspective.”

Introspection is very seriously lacking. Please re-read all that you’ve written, which amounts to only negative comment deficient in rational perspective.

Avatar for alan

@Mark2 @Catherine For the life of me I do not understand the attitude of the Green/ left that Religious people are not entitled to their views. 

It seems to be that if your views are coloured by your faith then that makes you irrelevant. It is OK for some to be driven by their secular humanism, but keep out of social debate if your driven by religious views, especially biblical Christianity.

TO me it is a completely illogical stance, very arrogant, and censoring. It achieves the very thing that the green/ left "progressives" claim they are the victims of.

Avatar for evan

Oh come now, can't you better than that? That aside, the new age faux intellectuals who throw abuse are the new representatives of bigotry and bias in my opinion.


Avatar for Stephen

A work collegue stated to me that a church refusing to wed same sex couples should have their charitable status cut. This thinking extends to other areas. Once this SSM bill passes expect the true impact and extent of change to become obvious. And yes, your personal freedom of choice will be the first to go.

Avatar for Luke

Should a Sunni baker be forced to bake a cake for a Shia wedding? Should a Hutu hotel owner be forced to provide rooms to a Tutsi delegation? Should a Palestinian restaurant be forced to host a dinner for the Jewish ambassador? The fact is we have compromises with freedoms in the commercial sector to end the sort of discriminations that are the antithesis of a fair society. Why should our approach to same sex marriage be different?

Avatar for Catherine

@Luke- hotels and other venues have refused to host ACL events. That brand of discrimination in the commercial sector is ok, apparently.

Avatar for Frank

@Luke Agreed Luke. No homosexual activist should be allowed to get away with not promoting Pro-Christian messages. Nor should members of the ALP be permitted to not support the propagation of Liberal party policies. How dare anyone in this country have the right to have their own opinions and values and live by them. Everyone must conform with the group think and that is that!

Avatar for alan

@Luke No Luke , answer the question Mr Anderson puts, should an LGBTQI baker be forced to bake a cake that is used to defend or advocate heterosexual marriage.  You are just trying to dilute the truth that for SSM advocates discrimination only cuts one way.

Avatar for David

Thanks John Anderson.

A powerful piece. Your historical analysis clearly demonstrates the risks that those who hold to man women marriage face.

I don't say this lightly - we live in dangerous times

David's wife

Avatar for Archer

The SSM vote is a chance to question the freedoms enjoyed by people who believe in nonsense. Do we really want discrimination enshrined in law because people believe in untestable, fantastic dogma? About time this country believed in science and cast off the the yoke of superstition.

Avatar for a

Dyson Heydon and now John Anderson. Our society needs to hear far more from similar  intellectual heavyweights and far less from the self selected 'elites' who are trashing  our National pride with insidious stealth. 

Avatar for Jason

I am a gay person, Am I allowed to state my view? The problem with freedom of religion protections, is that anybody could freely discriminate against a LGBTI person or couple and then claim "freedom of religion" as justification - despite the fact that they don't hold any religious beliefs. For example I could discriminate against a heterosexual couple and claim "freedom of religion" despite the fact I don't hold any religious beliefs. I cannot help but wonder if Tony Abbott and CO are using religious freedom as an excuse to try and stop same-sex marriage happening in Australia. So if you support freedom of religion protections in a same-sex marriage bill, can you guarantee that the protections won't be abused by people who don't hold any religious beliefs?

Avatar for karl

@Jason  what religious belief would allow you to discriminate against a heterosexual couple?? Which religion?? I cant wait to hear the answer tot his straw man.

Avatar for Brian

So the issue would be demonstrated long term religious commitment to a form of religion that was opposed to heterosexual activity. You couldn't just randomly and spuriously claim such belief / objection.

And while I think your argument is a red herring, you absolutely have the right to express it. I would object in the strongest possible terms to any one who tried denying you the right to do so. Respect in debate is necessary to civil discourse, something the fundamentalists on both sides of the coin just don't seem to get.

Avatar for Mark2

@Jason Don't "wonder". You're correct. They are. It is slimy behaviour. Worse, slime hiding behind faux morality. A common tactic of the religious.

Avatar for Phil

@Jason should a Lebanese Muslim restaurant be required to serve pork?

It seems irrational to us to avoid pork but eat beef and lamb , but it their deeply held religious beleif.

And yes your life choices have put you in a place where you are in clear conflict with a number of religious views, and Anderson is saying quite correctly that the current LGBTQI lobby would happily ban those views.

Avatar for John

@Jason As the article stated people should be free to service whoever they like without having to give any reason. 

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