Is there a Need for a Religious Discrimination Bill?

Let me try and break down this complex debate.

There is a wider movement affirming the rights of the LGBTI+s. Recent legislation has moved to protect the rights of this community. They are perceived to be vulnerable individuals. Cited evidence for this includes the fact that LGBTI+s experience poorer physical and mental health outcomes. It is argued this is because the LGBTI+ community experiences stigma and discrimination.

Those who oppose the religious discrimination legislation contend that the bill will allow religious organisations to discriminate by limiting the employment or self-expression opportunities of LGBTI+s. This vulnerable group needs our affirmation, not judgement, so it is argued.

People who affirm the need for a religious discrimination bill may do so on one of two grounds. Some will argue that LGBTI+ is an ungodly and unwise life choice. That their negative health outcomes are because of poor lifestyle choices. Society should protect Christians who make a more positive contribution. Look at our schools, hospitals, welfare agencies – they bless our community.

We do bless the community, but the above is not my position. I believe that in a modern secular democracy, others have the right to make their own choices, free from discrimination. I support the move towards a religious discrimination bill, but for a different reason.

Just as LGBTI+s have rights, so do Christians. We have the right to congregate with people whose core beliefs and values align with ours. Conversations and legislation about human rights are by nature about tensions between competing rights. How do we manage competing rights?

The answer is not to say that the rights of vulnerable individuals always trumps everyone else. That is unworkable. We must look to making freedoms widespread, and limiting negative consequences. If an LGBTI+ teacher cannot teach at a Christian school, they can teach at another school. They may be inconvenienced, but they have other options.

If the government says it is illegal for any school to only employ hetro-normative staff who have a traditional view of marriage, then the Christian or Muslim who wishes to send their children to a school that affirms a hetro-normative view of marriage has no other options.

“We shouldn’t accept the argument that an international human right should not be protected because of the possibility that a small number of individuals could be adversely impacted”.[1]

Rev David Rietveld

Senior Minister

[1]Dr Denis Dragovic, SBS news website.

2nd December 2021 Newsletter
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