Lines from Louis (written by Geoffrey Webber)

Servicing the Bald Hills and nearby Communities

Lines from Louis (written by Geoffrey Webber)

Sunday 15th March

Time Magazine’s latest issue commemorates 100 years since “the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the USA”, whereby women of European heritage in the USA were granted the right to vote.  It is acknowledged in the magazine that women in the USA of American-Indian heritage did not receive voting rights until 1962, and that women in the USA of African-American heritage did not receive voting rights until 1965. 

  The USA was a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly on 10th December 1948.                             

Article 1 commences with these words:                                                                                                “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”             

Article 21 (iii) commences with these words:                                                                       “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage.”

  So, if on 10/12/1948 it was recognised in the USA that all women were born with “equal rights” with men, one of which was “equal suffrage” with men, why was equal suffrage of all women with men not granted on 10/12/1948?  Why did it take until 1962 and 1965 for the USA Federal and State Governments to implement what was signed in 1948?  What part of “equal in dignity and rights” only applied to women of European heritage, not to all women?

  The situation in Australia was different in that women were granted the right to vote in all States and at Commonwealth elections, between 1894 and 1902.  Except in WA and in Queensland, this included women of indigenous and Islander heritage.  From my reading, my understanding is that by 1858, except in WA and in Queensland, men of indigenous and Islander heritage already had the right to vote, although this was not often explained to them. nor were they encouraged to enrol.  Their right to vote was confirmed by the Commonwealth Government in 1962.                                                                                                                                  

What is of interest is that indigenous and Islander peoples in WA did not receive the right to vote until 1962, and indigenous and Islander peoples in Queensland did not receive the right to vote until 1965. 

  Australia too was a signatory to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10/12/1948.  So, one must ask the question, “Why was it determined that “equal in dignity and rights” did not apply to indigenous and Islander peoples in WA until 1962 and in Queensland until 1965?”  Why wasn’t their right to vote acknowledged on 10/12/1948 and granted at all levels of Government at the same time?  I appreciate that there was much more to the situation, yet, what vested interests or what accepted social and political stances at the time, prevented a simple implementation of the simple statement of “equal rights for all people”, irrespective of any:

“distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”  (Article 2)

  The Church, as a whole, should have always had such an understanding of equality of all peoples without distinctions of any kind.  Today’s Gospel reading from John 4 concerns Jesus meeting the Samaritan women at the village of Sychar.  R Tasker, in his Commentary on the gospel of John, summaries one aspect of this Gospel account, saying, “the advent of the Messiah makes it possible for God to be worshipped in spirit and in truth, and that such worshippers cannot be confined to one race, class or gender.”  (p78)  Paul states this quite clearly in his letter to the Church in Galatia, “So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free, between man and woman, you are all one in union with Christ Jesus”  (3:28)  , and also in his letter to the Church in Rome, where he writes, “God is the same God of all and richly blesses all who call to Him.”  (10: 12)  , quoting from Joel 2: 32.

If all are equal in the sight of God, how then can some claim that not all are equal in the sight of Mankind?  Why was inequality not just condoned by the Church in the past, but sustained by the Church in the past?  What inequalities between people are still being condoned by the Church?  What distinctions are we placing upon people that Jesus sought to remove?  To what distinctions are we turning a “blind eye” today?  “We were God’s enemies, but He has made us his friends.”, Paul writes in Romans 5: 10.  We, as People of God, have a responsibility to confront those situations where people seek to apply a label ‘their enemies’ to those that God has labelled ‘His friends’.  No-one has the right to create distinctions where God has sought to break down barriers.     Geoffrey.