DON BROWN, the Labor Member of State Parliament for Capalaba in South East Queensland, has launched a scathing attack on a local community group, “The Cage” in response to an article about funding promised by the Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington.

“The hits keep on coming. No money for state roads and now giving taxpayers’ money to churches, who don’t even pay taxes. Deb Frecklington thanks for the 2 free kicks today.”

The Cage Youth Foundation is a social enterprise with government-approved charity status which provides counselling, school breakfasts, workshops & mentoring programs, youth suicide prevention support, and work-readiness courses among other community programs for teens & adolescents.

According to their website, “Cage” is an acronym for “creating a good environment” and the not-for-profit’s (NFP) vision is to:

“…Ensure that Redlands Youth and Families experiencing disadvantages, hardships, and isolation are identified, connected, and supported through practical, innovative, and person centered services”

Local Federal Parliament Member, Andrew Laming (LNP), posted a screen shot of Don Brown’s similar comments also on Facebook (since removed) and had this to say:

“Just gutted to see the Capalaba MP spend his Friday night sh#t-canning The Cage Youth Foundation, Redland’s best youth skilling service.”

In response to Don Brown MP’s snide remarks, Linda Grieve, Cage’s director, replied:

“Excuse me Don! How long have you actually been in Redlands? …It’s not a church… That self-funded charity has been providing support in Redlands for over 19 years for our young people and families! Don’t use us in your negative, back-stabbing, bullying practices – it’s offensive.”

The election promise for funding is a paltry $50,000 to relocate a nearby church hall onto The Cage’s premises, which Mrs Frecklington said was part of the LNP’s plan to boost social and economic strength.

I find it remarkable in this modern era of bountiful tolerance and pluralism that a government MP should be so oblivious as to not even be capable of blushing when manifesting such religious intolerance and bigotry. One could be forgiven for concluding he harboured a now not so secret proclivity for Christophobia.

Of course, this could be easily disproved by him producing evidence of similar levels of hostile commentary towards the tax free status of trade unions, which do not pay tax on the vast quantities of cash received by them in membership fees and donations – exactly like churches.

An inconsistent level of antipathy would seem to indicate religious bigotry (intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from himself) inasmuch he only publicly criticises the tax free status of Christian not-for-profit organisations.

Instead, Brown offered his extraordinary attack couldn’t be motivated by Christophobia because he’s a “Catholic”, and was only concerned about the “$0 for state roads vs $50k to move a church hall”.

Neighbouring Member of the Queensland state Parliament, Mark Robinson, summised Brown’s apparent discrimination demonstrated need for the federal bill protecting religious freedom:

“So Don, your “faith” leads you to believe that Labor Governments should discriminate against ALL faith based welfare programs – The Cage, Salvos, Catholic, School chaplaincy… But you’re not #faithphobic? You are the reason we need the LNP Federal religious protection Bill.”

Of course, a possible alternative explanation could be not religious bigotry per se, but a problematic level of ignorance of the accepted wisdom across the political spectrum around public policy regarding organisations such as unions, churches and sporting groups which are registered as not-for-profit for tax purposes.

As a Labor MP, Don Brown may also justifiably fear the backlash from the unions he represents more than Christian voters in his electorate if he did comment negatively on unions’ tax free status. It’s no secret how much unions donate to Labor election campaigns, so such fear wouldn’t be irrational, but biting the hand which feeds you would be.

For those MPs who don’t understand why churches are exempt from paying tax on offerings, donations and income from other sources, allow me to educate you on what your primary, secondary & tertiary education failed to. If you’re a radical secularist, you probably won’t allow the facts to get in the way of your latent prejudice, so feel free to find something in The Guardian to confirm your bias without reading further.

Taxpayers, who you claim to be concerned about getting value for money, take money they’ve already paid tax on and donate or pay it to community organisations such as sporting clubs and churches to do good in the community. Why this is of benefit to the society as a whole and why governments across the Western world agree to not tax that money again is because NFPs provide exponentially far more value and benefit to the community than the government could with the same revenue they forego by not taxing them.

Ultimately it will be up to the residents of Redlands & other electorates to decide whether they want another $50,000 spent on state roads instead of helping community groups which do critcally important social good the likes of which are done, and done better, by the Cage Youth Foundation and faith groups.

If Don Brown MP’s commentary doesn’t represent the values and policy posture of the Qld Labor Party and her government, it would now appear urgent Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk force her sniping backbencher to apologise to The Cage and churches across his local electorate and the state for his ill-considered public display.

Dave Pellowe is a Christian writer & commentator, founder of The Good Sauce, convener of the annual Australian Church And State Summit and host of Good Sauce's weekly The Church And State Show, also syndicated on ADH TV. Since 2016 Dave has undertaken the mission of arming Christians to influence culture through events from Perth to Auckland, videos, podcasts and articles published in multiple journals across Australia and New Zealand. [more]

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