Overcoat Issue Four: Freedom — Editorial

Posted on January 15, 2013

Some words from our editor, Alexandra Gibson introducing Overcoat Issue Four: Freedom.

I was having a conversation with my grandmother recently. A warm hearted, caring woman who has always strongly valued her religious beliefs — they provide reassurance, routine and a lot of her social activity revolves around church-related activities. Although my relationship with religion is extremely different from hers, having grown up exposed to a version of religion that seemed loving, inclusive and positive, my grandmother’s relationship to God has never seemed threatening, unreasonable or irrational in any sense.
However, recently my parents and I were having a conversation
with my grandmother. My parents have spent the last three years teaching in Jakarta, Indonesia — living within a majority Islam society. Islam, surprisingly one of the more peaceful of religions, has sadly been twisted and presented to the world from the perspective of a few extremists (as religion in general often is), particularly to the Western world. A discussion of religion in Australian schools came up. In relation to the teaching of Christianity in schools — in one swift sentence — my grandmother had referred to those Muslims as “terrorists” and had accused them of preventing Australians the freedom to study Christianity due to their claims of discrimination.
We were shocked. The only source on information my grandmother receives about Islam is through Australian media and this was the conclusion she had pieced together. Not only is this an issue of freedom to factual information — which is deeply troubling, particularly for a country that boasts free press — but secondly, the idea that in a country as culturally diverse as Australia, the idea that schools would teach one, compulsory religion is unrealistic.
I think the issue that struck me the most is the irrational argument, which applies to a broad range of issues, that by expanding our practises to be inclusive of others we would restrict or prevent our ability to continue those practices. If schools decided to teach a broad range of religions, or even allow their students the freedom to study their own religions (perhaps celebrate a range of religious holidays, etc.) Christian students wouldn’t be banned from learning about or practicing Christianity.
I’ve often heard the same argument be applied to the restriction heterosexual couples would suffer if homosexual couples were permitted to legally marry. If homosexual couples have children, the nuclear family will suffer. Allowing equality for those oppressed doesn’t reduce the freedom of those already free to live their lives as they please.

Read our contributors’ thoughts about Freedom and how it affects their live and work in Overcoat Issue Four: Freedom.

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