Australia'I'll burn for you': Pentecostal PM energises Christian voters
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Scott Morrison declared his election victory a “miracle,” told an interviewer he saw people as “agents of God’s love” and used a National Press Club address to promise voters “I will burn for you” - a phrase used by some Pentecostal Christians to signify working tirelessly, often for Jesus.
One of his first acts during the campaign was to allow the cameras to record him worshipping at his church, Horizon.
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Mr Morrison is not the first government leader of faith (John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott were all Christians) but in his political language, the re-elected Prime Minister is arguably the most overt.
According to the Australian Christian Lobby’s Martyn Iles, this language - coupled with the PM’s support for religious freedom - is re-energising religious communities and turning them to the Liberal Party.
“It does give people of faith a degree of confidence when they see a Prime Minister who is clearly Christian,” Mr Iles said.
“It doesn’t surprise me when it seems like religious communities played a role in the rising support for the Liberal Party, because I think that confidence probably did play into the psychology of their vote.”
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Polling centres and ‘democracy dog’ sausage stands should be bathed in sun as voters have their say in the Federal election. Local schools, church halls and public buildings will open their doors from 8am as polling centres for voters to lodge their ballots until 6pm. Ahead of election day, the Bureau of Meteorology has predicted mostly sunny weather conditions for major cities in multiple states. © AAP Australians will flood polling booths around the nation tomorrow and meteorologists have predicted that voting centres in most parts should receive mostly sunny weather.
Macquarie University professor Marion Maddox, an expert on the intersection of faith and politics, said Mr Morrison’s overtly religious language was “unfamiliar territory for Australian politics”.
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But it comes at a time when trust in politics has been eroded, so it could appeal to a much broader audience than just those who already have faith.
“It's saying: I have a belief in something bigger than myself, I have a belief in ideals," Dr Maddox said. "It's particularly useful when party ideology is no longer a ready reference point.”
Preliminary analysis of Australian Electoral Commission and census data suggests that a number of the key seats that swung against Labor overlap with higher-than-national-average rates of Christian households.
The seats include the Queensland seats of Herbert and Longman, where Christianity makes up the biggest religious grouping in those electorates (65 per cent and 62.4 per cent, respectively) and the Tasmanian seat of Braddon (58 per cent).
In Victoria, volatile electorates such as Deakin cut through Melbourne’s outer eastern “bible belt” and have a tendency to switch between the parties. But this also remained Liberal this year, defying Labor's hopes.
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At this election, the Australian Christian Lobby also ran its first ever federal field campaign, which pointed out where the parties stood on issues such as “supporting faith-based schools to uphold their values”; “the legalisation of assisted suicide” and the “public funding of abortion”.
They distributed hundreds of thousands of leaflets, made phone calls, and undertook an extensive online campaign across six electorates: Chisholm in Victoria; Boothby in South Australia, Bass in Tasmania, Canning in Western Australia; Petrie in Queensland and McMahon in NSW. Most, with the exception of Boothby and Chisholm, recorded anti-Labor swings.
Mr Morrison’s social media platforms now show thousands of comments from people expressing religious sentiments in support of his re-election.
“Congratulations Prime Minister! We have been longing for a dedicated Christian leader here in Australia and we finally have one!!!” wrote one voter on his Facebook page. “Can’t wait to see how God is going to work in and through you in this term.”
“May God bless and guide your leadership, Scott! Praise the Lord for this miracle win,” wrote another.
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Senior Labor figures are worried they're losing religious voters. While conclusive evidence is scarce, it's definitely a space to watch.
In policy terms, the Australian Christian Lobby has called the Coalition’s victory a “win for religious freedom” and has urged the government to pass a Religious Freedom Act that would enshrine in law clear protections for faith-based groups.
Such an act could guarantee that faith-based schools could uphold their teachings on issues such as homosexuality, allowing them to select staff on that basis.
In a written response to religious leaders on May 14, Mr Morrison committed to “providing Australians of religious belief with protections equivalent to those guaranteed in relation to other protected attributes under Commonwealth anti-discrimination law.”
However, in an apparent contradiction, the Liberal Party vowed during the campaign to “redouble” its efforts tackling discrimination against the LGBTI community, starting with the removal of exemptions allowing faith-based schools to expel gay students.
It also wrote to LGBTI lobby group Equality Australia promising to work with the states to tackle gay “conversion” therapy - an ideology and practice that is predominantly pushed by Evangelical ministries.
“We’ll be making sure they keep their promises,” said Equality Australia spokeswoman Anna Brown.
Church's pray-for-Scott Morrison federal election email criticised for 'dubious claims'.
An election-eve email urging Pentecostal church members to vote for the Prime Minister is criticised by a religious commentator, who says the message presented a "narrow view of Christianity". Pastor Ashley Evans of the Influencers Church in South Australia sent the email, warning that a vote for Labor or the Greens was "the next step in the assault against the Church, Christianity, and Christians in Australia".