When I was thirteen years of age, my family migrated to Australia. I liked the fact that Australia was secular. Religion seemed to play little role in politics and in people's lives in general. In the years that followed, Australia continued to remain secular and as far as I was aware, religion did not play a major part in politics. I was always confident that other people's beliefs would never affect me, confident that religion will continue to remain separate from the laws of the land that ruled me and so many Australians. Now, I am no longer sure.

Overseas, there has been a worrying trend of religious institutions attempting to hijack governments and have laws changed to ones that suit their beliefs. This is made possible by providing simple-minded, outdated arguments to complex issues faced by societies. Unfortunately, these theocratic ideologies have arrived here in Australia.

What worries me is that religious institutions are becoming more assertive and they want to influence the type of laws we should obey. One of these issues is abortion: Should we allow women the choice of terminating unwanted pregnancies?

There are those of us who refuse to equate the removal, expulsion of a foetus or embryo to murder. And in doing so, we acknowledge that in reality there will be women and young girls who will get pregnant and, for one reason or another, want to abort their pregnancy.

Victoria has decriminalised abortion because many Victorians see it immoral and unjust for a society to deny women the right to choose what is right for them. Ultimately, isn?t it the women themselves who have to live with the consequences of this decision?

As a democratic society, we are continuously faced with difficult issues and equally valid opinions to consider. What I strongly disagree with is the type of tactics that some of the religious organisations use in having their way:

1. Using scare-mongering tactics to terrorise Australians into passing laws favourable to their religion and

2. Claim that their words and actions are the words and actions of their god.

Staying with the issue of abortion, there is one particular church that has come to light in recent times for its assertive push for using religion to influence politics: The Pentecostal Church of Catch the Fire Ministries. This organisation has been active in pushing its agenda against legalising abortion and gay marriage. This group has been successful in California, Arizona and Florida in the USA, for example, where they managed to deny same-sex couples the legal right to be recognised as a married couple by law. This denies them certain rights afforded to homosexual couples.

In the wake of the Black Saturday bushfires, the church leader of Catch The Fire Ministries, Pastor Danny Nalliah, claimed he had a dream on the 21st of October 2008. Apparently, he woke with "a flash from the Spirit of God: that His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb"[1].

In other words, according to Danny Nalliah, his god became so angry with Victorians because they decriminalised abortion. He allowed the bushfires to ravage through the state to destroy 2,029 homes[2], displace an estimated 7562 people[3], kill 173 people[4] and injure 414 more. His god turned his back on Victoria as this horrific catastrophe unfolded. Nalliah said, "The Bible is very clear: If you walk out of God's protection and turn your back on Him, you are an open target for the devil to destroy"[5].

How appalling is it that some individuals along with various church organisations still choose to support him despite of his senseless remarks. Worse still, Danny Nalliah is accusing all those who disagree with him and his church's stance on abortion as being the ones to blame for the bush fires that took so many innocent lives. How sickening!

A year has passed and Victorians have heard no apologies from Pastor Nalliah nor from Catch The Fire Ministries. To the contrary, this year on Australia Day, 26January 2010, the church is organising their annual Australia Day Prayer Celebration where apparently the Lord Jesus Christ himself has seen it fit to honour Pastor Daniel Nalliah. In their own words:

It is with great joy that I write to inform you of an extremely exciting happening taking place on Australia Day 26th January 2010 in Melbourne. How good is our heavenly Father to bring from afar (USA) an honour for a passionate, deserving son of His!

We have therefore made space in the program of the Australia Day United Prayer Celebration for a special time where Pastor Daniel will be recognised with an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity Degree from Saint Thomas Christian College in Jacksonville, Florida, USA. I personally invite you to come and be part of this time of Divine Acknowledgement by God's hand.

Source: www.catchthefire.com.au: God Bestows Honour on Pastor Daniel on Australia Day 2010 at Catch The Fire Ministries. By Dianne Johnson. http://catchthefire.com.au/blog/2010/01/07/god-bestows-honour-on-pastor-daniel-on-australia-day-2010/ (Accessed: 7 Jan 2010)

Individuals and organisations reach the height of their arrogance when they proclaim they speak for gods.

I have never attended an organised protest before. But this Australia Day 2010, I will be packing my bags to join the many Victorians who will gather outside the Catch The Fire Ministry's Australia Day Prayer Meeting at the Springvale Town Hall.

For the first time in my life, I will stand alongside many Victorians to protest. My voice will join the many voices of other Australians who have come to say:

1. We have had enough of religious organisations like Catch The Fire Ministries, taking advantage of their congregations to vote and advance their political agendas.

2. We have had enough of false prophets proclaiming themselves to speak for gods, telling us that their will, is their god's will.

3. We have had enough of religions using fear to coerce people to vote their way, while completely diverting discussions away from core issues.

If you are reading this, I urge you to join me and stand against well-funded and well-organised religious organisations working in Australia to bring about an authoritarian rule of their gods. The time has come for us to defend the free-thinking, secular nature of a country we have known and come to love. We cannot sit idly and do nothing while these religions undermine the very foundations of what makes Australia great.

Together, we can protest for Australia on Australia Day and I hope to meet you there.

For more information, download: The Melbourne Atheist Examiner Australia Day Edition (247KBs PDF).



Marquez Comelab is the author of The Tyranny Of God: Liberating Ourselves From Our Own Beliefs.



[1] The Sydney Morning Herald. 'Pastor's abortion dream inflames bushfire tragedy'. (Published: 11 Feb '09) http://www.smh.com.au/national/pastors-abortion-dream-inflames-bushfire-tragedy-20090210-832f.html (Accessed: 18 Jan '10).

[2] "Victorian Bushfires". Parliament of New South Wales. 13 March 2009. http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/PARLMENT/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LA20090313005. Retrieved 14 December 2009.

[3] "Victorian Bushfires". Parliament of New South Wales. 13 March 2009. http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/PARLMENT/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LA20090313005. Retrieved 14 December 2009.

[4] "Bushfires death toll". Victoria Police. 30 March 2009. http://www.police.vic.gov.au/content.asp?Document_ID=19190. Retrieved 31 March 2009.

[5] The Sydney Morning Herald. 'Pastor's abortion dream inflames bushfire tragedy'. (Published: 11 Feb '09) http://www.smh.com.au/national/pastors-abortion-dream-inflames-bushfire-tragedy-20090210-832f.html (Accessed: 18 Jan '10).

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