Annoying World Youth Day Laws

Catholic World Youth DaySome people find me annoying. That’s just the way life is. I’m okay with that. But do I deserve a $5,500 fine for being annoying? Okay, so fining me for my personality may be going too far. But what about fining me for knocking on your door and asking you what you know about Jesus? Or handing you a leaflet at the train station letting you know what is happening at my Church? Some people find these things annoying. I think that they’re effective tools for starting conversations about the gospel. But what if me bringing up the topic of religion with you is so annoying that I could be fined or even arrested? That is what has got me concerned about these new police powers.

http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/thou-shalt-not-annoy-on-youth-day/2008/06/30/1214677946009.html

http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/hack/notes/s2291339.htm

Here’s the deal. NSW police have been granted extra powers for Catholic World Youth Day. They have the ability to fine people who cause an “annoyance” during any of the WYD events. The problem is, no one quite knows what the definition of annoying is. It’s not a hard and fast description with a list of possible infringements. No, it’s a vague word open to the individual interpretation of the police officer present. Yeah, I’m concerned.

I am not against WYD. I will not be protesting or even boycotting any events. I’m not involved and I’m just not interested. I am not advocating that anyone try to stop this event from happening. While I may not agree with the Roman Catholic Church, I respect their right of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. I also respect the right of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly of those who wish to protest. This law, while not a direct attack on those rights, is definitely heading in that direction.

The discussion of ideas is an important thing. I would be deeply distressed if the Sydney Anglican Church became a place where discussing ideas and theology was banned and a one-size-fits-all theology was imposed from above (some say this has already happened. I do not agree with that cynical outlook). It is when we’re able to share ideas that we are able to sharpen our beliefs as well as expose our blind spots. Sometimes I’m going to get it wrong. I’d much rather live in a world where I can put forward a view and be lovingly persuaded through reason and the Bible that I’m wrong.

I believe in absolute truth, so ultimately I’m going to believe that people who worship another God or hold doctrines about God that are contrary to mine are wrong. I respect their beliefs and their right to hold them. I want to be able to engage these people in dialogue and convince them of the truth that I believe. And I want them to be able to do the same to me. I want to live in a world where we are free to do this.

I am concerned that these new laws are heading in the direction where it will be illegal to say someone is wrong. That it will be illegal to stand up for what you believe in and assert that it is absolutely true. I am concerned it will become illegal to start a conversation about God with someone unless they are a card carrying member of your faith/denomination. Tolerance is the buzz word of our society and I can see a day when being seen as Intolerant will be a crime.

Which will it be? Tolerance or Free Speech? I will be praying for our government and our police force. I will be praying that these laws are not abused. I will be praying that people who wish to protest will do so in a considerate way that is open to forming rational, constructive discussions. And I will be praying that God will continue to provide opportunities for the gospel and not close down options we already have.

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About Joel A Moroney

Associate Minister at St Luke's Anglican Church, Liverpool (in the Sydney Diocese). A very strange man, but he usually has Pez, so that makes it okay.

One response to “Annoying World Youth Day Laws”

  1. Anthony says :

    Freedom for anything is something my Grandfather laid his life on the line for in WW2. This country has become so infantile in its approach to political correctness. I am a layman and by no means follow political events but I can see by the general consensus within my circle that all is not well.

    I am an Atheist and therefore have no need for any God, the right for the pilgrims is cool by me. The laws passed for those who wish to protest against this movement are wrong as you said. It is every ones right to protest against that with which they dont believe in, in a peaceful manner.

    The question I ask is this, “why did my Pop go to war? and why did they sacrifice their future?” and I reckon I wouldnt get many sufficient answers! RIP Pop

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