Some might have thought I was being unduly alarmist a few months ago when I said that if local councils “can ban pokie venues and brothels, why not mosques and synagogues?”

Not so. Today comes the news that “Catch the Fire” ministries, a fundamentalist Christian umbrella group, claims to have done a deal with the Victorian Liberal Party to ensure its support.

Actually, “fundamentalist” doesn’t quite do justice to these people. They’re way out on the fringe, somewhere near the Exclusive Brethren.

Catch the Fire head honcho Danny Nalliah has released a pamphlet, according to The Australian, calling on his followers to “Spot Satan’s strongholds in the areas you are living (brothels, gambling places, bottle shops, mosque, temples – Freemasons/Buddhist/Hindu etc …) bring it to your church and ask your intercessors, through the pastor, to pull these strongholds down.”

In the wise words of Barnaby Joyce, “This is the lunatic Right, this is crazy, ill-informed stuff”.

But it’s a logical extension of the puritanism already evident among the Liberals (and even more so the minor parties) with their campaign against poker machines.

Once you decide that certain preferences are not worthy of consideration, and that people can’t be allowed to make their own choices, then it’s open season on anyone with unpopular tastes. Today gamblers, tomorrow Muslims.

Fear of the grassroots reaction seems to have deterred the Victorian ALP from doing another preference deal with the Assemblies of God party, Family First. It’s a pity that the Liberal Party doesn’t have any comparable fear that its members might object to getting into bed with religious extremists.

And spare a thought for the absurdity of Victoria’s racial and religious vilification laws, which allow these hate-filled bigots to parade as defenders of free speech.

Peter Fray

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