Relief Is Coming for the Hesitant

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“Freely given consent to any medical treatment, particularly in the context of a clinical trial, is not optional. Coercion is completely incompatible with consent, and denying a person the ability to work and participate in society if the person does not have a COVID vaccine will unquestionably breach this fundamental and internationally recognised human right. Can COVID vaccinations be mandated by employers on health and safety grounds? The short answer to this question, in almost every case, is no.”

By Tim Grant, Matthew Littlefield, and Giuliano Bordoni

The last two years have been a wild ride, one that most of us wished was over, but we suspect it still has some twists and turns to come.  However, it is important that we continue to confront a disturbing aspect of these last two years: the shunning, mocking, and condescending discussions aimed at the covid curious and covid vaccine-hesitant and the quickness with which many want to override the consciences of such people.

Rather than seeking to understand this portion of society, many Aussies, including church leaders, have fallen into lockstep with mainstream media personalities and politicians who have demeaned them. To say this is counterproductive is an understatement. It has been causing serious fractures in our society which have filtered through to workplaces, community halls, churches, and families. Those in agreement with the majority’s position only needed to do one simple thing; acknowledge that those who were concerned about the trajectory of our society have valid reasons for their concerns. Many leaders struggled to even do that. Many who held a contrarian opinion remained silent, for fear that they would be labelled as “anti-vax,” or “right-wing,” or “conspiracy theorists,” etc, etc.

The speed with which our society has overridden long-held norms should have given many people cause to be considerate with those who are uncomfortable with the changes. It is especially incumbent on church leaders to walk in an understanding way with such people. We are taught about the wisdom of consultation and relationships when seeking to bring change in our congregations, and we know the dangers any community group can face, when change happens too fast, and people feel like they are losing any say. It causes fractures that are unnecessary.

However, relief is coming for the hesitant. While this relief is building slowly, it is important to note that there are people in positions of power who are acknowledging that the hesitant should not be coerced. We had hoped the Church could lead on this front, but this, unfortunately, hasn’t happened. Instead, leadership has come from the Fair Work Commission in the person of Deputy President Lyndall Dean. Even though Dean wasn’t in the majority in this particular decision, she stated:

Finally, all Australians, including those who hold or are suspected of holding “anti-vaccination sentiments”, are entitled to the protection of our laws, including the protections afforded by the Fair Work Act. In this regard, one can only hope that the Majority Decision is recognised as an anomaly and not followed by others.

This call for justice should’ve initially come from those who know the goodness and truth of Jesus. But, to paraphrase the Biblical author in this particular context, if those who should cry out in favour of the truth won’t do their job, God will raise other voices to uphold his justice, even the voice from the cold stone of the law of the country (Luke 19:40).

One of the most fascinating things about Australian society is that not only has much of the nation forgotten its Christian roots but so has much of the Church. But to a large degree our laws still reflect these influences. Those who know our western history know how much the considerations of conscience were an important concern of medieval theologians and Protestant Reformers, and how these traditions combined to make the West so great. The West learnt, through long struggles and many difficulties, that it was better to convince people’s consciences, rather than coerce them. This is very significant since there is much in our law which reflects these lessons.

Here are some of the assessments of the Deputy President Dean’s dissenting decision in this recent case dated 27 September 2021, and taken word for word from her dissenting ruling:

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