In the past few days we’ve posted a few examples of the kinds of things that typify the kind of things ACCESS supporters say.

One we called “An Ugly Rant” – and it got a lot of comments from FIRIS supporters – 50 likes on Facebook, and 26 comments on the thread – which is a lot for a website with a regional focus on a policy issue like ours.

The other post we put up, however was from the Keynote speech at an ARROW Leadership meeting.  This post only got one response!

I’ve been concerned that posting the “Ugly Rant” gets people talking – but posting “Keynote Speech” seems to be less interesting to people.  To me, the opposite is true.  The Keynote Speech – is something that we should talk about and understand, and to take a cue from, “meet toe to toe”.  The Ugly Rant, on the other hand is nothing special – another whelp of anger from a person clinging to the fringes of literacy.

The Keynote Speech however – comes from a place much closer to the levers of power – and therefore is something that leads to rule making, and the handing out of money and political favors.

ARROW for those of you not following closely is a group that is closely allied with ACCESS.  The chairman of ACCESS is on the board of ARROW, the Chair of ARROW is a leading funder of ACCESS, the CEO of ACCESS is on the board of ARROW.  Both groups are animated by a similar theological framework, and both are strategic, church led activism to explicitly promote religious identity.  Both are hostile to the core values of a secular society, and especially so to the core value that church state separation is among our highest values.

The “Ugly Rant” – is naked in its hostility, it is easy to laugh at and easy to mock – that is why we got so many comments mocking it and condemning it.  The Keynote Speech, on the other hand is veiled, its hostility and intentions are disguised and coded, it speaker is charming and well groomed.

“The Ugly Rant” and the ARROW Keynote – are, however, really saying the same thing – the main difference is in the education and sophistication of the keynote speaker – Tim Sims.  Sims is a person with a large network in the business world in Australia.  His education is first rate.  He received an MA from Oxford University and an MPA from Harvard where he was a Kennedy Scholar (this is a fund which pays people from the UK to attend Harvard and was given to honor JFK).

It is this last fact that moves what he says from alarming, to beyond the pale, as Sims is using his degree in Public Administration, on a scholarship funded in honor of JFK, at a school named in honor of JFK, to advocate (as a matter of personal conviction) the erosion of the values that Kennedy worked so hard to promote.  It would be like finding out that a person on a Jonas Salk scholarship at the Columbia School of Medicine, had moved to Australia to advocate preventing vaccinations!

Listen again to Sims:

Now listen to John F. Kennedy:

What is terrifying to me is that Tim Sims can talk like he does with no fear of having to answer for his comments, or even consider that he might have to defend the outrageous nature of these views.  It gets worse, secular society has become so complacent about the threat posed by thinkers like Sims, that politicians talk like Sims too (eg. John Howard), and it seems that everyone, politicians and citizens alike seem to have forgotten how to talk like Kennedy.

In case this post seems a bit removed from the topic of “Religions in School” it is that, in addition to the overlap in leadership between ACCESS and ARROW – the argument Sims makes is exactly the argument that got us “Special Religious Instruction”.

Here was how it was phrased during the Cold War, by the then Minister of Public Instruction, who worked to repeal the “secular” provision in the education act of 1872:

The churches are responsible for the Christian teaching in the community, and I am wondering whether there is any chance of agreement among them as to what could and should be taught in our schools. It does not need any great political sagacity to realize that no alteration in the education system, with respect to religion, can even be suggested, much less achieved, without the unanimous support of all churches. It is very difficult to develop character or to train children in the importance of family life and Democratic citizenship under the present system. (Kent S. Huges, 1948, letter to the CCESS)

When intellectuals and politicians put things in these dire existential terms – what they are really doing is stoking the “ugly rant” and pandering to fear.  In this case it is a fear of the very values and ideas that make Australia both free – and great.

In order to combat the Ugly Rant – we must understand how to confront “The Keynote”.  Leaders of the stature of Kennedy are rare, and as we’ve seen, gifts made in their honor can easily be perverted to promote the opposite of their ideals.