Australia’s newest prime minister is a church-going evangelical Christian who isn’t afraid to stand up for his faith in a country largely viewed as secular.
Scott Morrison became prime minister Friday when the Liberal Party voted him in as its leader after ousting Malcolm Turnbull, the former prime minister and party leader. The Liberals are a center-right party in Australia, while the Labor Party is more center-left.
Morrison is a member of Horizon Church, a Pentecostal congregation in Sydney where he and his family are involved in ministries.
Hugh White, a professor at the Australian National University, told The New York Times that Morrison is a social conservative, although it remains to be seen how he will governor.
“The question is whether Morrison will choose to make his faith part of his political persona or to what extent he will,” White said. “At this point, he doesn’t seem to have shoved it in people’s faces.”
Morrison opposes same-sex marriage but abstained during a vote on its legalization. The Liberals had promised a vote on the issue if the public supported it in a public survey through the mail. The bill passed after the survey of 12.7 million people showed 61.6 percent supported it.
When Morrison was first elected to the Australian House of Representatives in 2008, he referenced his Christian faith.
“My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda,” he said. “As Lincoln said, our task is not to claim whether God is on our side but to pray earnestly that we are on His. For me, faith is personal, but the implications are social — as personal and social responsibility are at the heart of the Christian message.”
Morrison then asserted that it had become “fashionable” to stereotype Christians as “extreme” and to “suggest that such faith has no place in the political debate of this country.” He suggested that his Christian faith impacts his political beliefs.
“This presents a significant challenge for those of us … who seek to follow the example of William Wilberforce or Desmond Tutu, to name just two,” he said.
“These leaders stood for the immutable truths and principles of the Christian faith. They transformed their nations and, indeed, the world in the process. More importantly, by following the convictions of their faith, they established and reinforced the principles of our liberal democracy upon which our own nation is built.”
Australia, he said at the time, is not a secular country but rather a “free country.”
“This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose. Secularism is just one. It has no greater claim than any other on our society. As U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman said, the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not from religion. I believe the same is true in this country.”
Michael Foust
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Stefan Postles/Stringer