Editors Note: Jennfier Oriel is probably one of Australia most most eloquent and passionate defender of faith, family and freedom. This is a copy of a very good recent article in the Australian Newspaper.
The government has proposed a religious discrimination act to protect the right of Australians to live in accordance with their faith. Its response to the Ruddock review is preliminary and will face further scrutiny when an exposure draft of legislation is released in the new year.
However, the proposal to recognise religious belief as a protected attribute under law has provoked an unexpected reaction. Opponents have suggested there is no evidence people are being targeted on the basis of their faith. Such denial is cold comfort to the victims of religious intolerance.
Last week, Scott Morrison prosecuted the case for recognising religion as a protected attribute under law. Yet the chair of the religious freedom review panel, Philip Ruddock, said: “There was a great deal of concern (about religious discrimination) but it was not on the basis of hard evidence.” Yet the Ruddock review details such evidence. The panel acknowledged the existence of anti-Semitism in Australia. It recognised the Islamophobia Register as evidence of anti-Muslim sentiment. By contrast, anti-Christian harassment and discrimination were given little attention in the report.
Fortunately, information on anti-Christian bigotry is in the public domain. This year, rugby player Israel Folau was subjected to abuse, threats of unemployment and boycotts for paraphrasing scripture in response to a social media question on homosexuality and religion. Some suggested a sponsor boycott to punish Folau’s dissent from the PC party line. Others said he deserved to be punished for not suppressing his religious belief.
Those opposing Folau’s right to cite scripture were advocating censorship of the Bible and closeted Christianity.
As reported in The Weekend Australian, a Christian wedding photographer was taken recently to the Equal Opportunity Commission in Western Australia. His offence was agreeing to photograph a same-sex couple’s children, but advising them of his religious belief in case they wanted to hire someone else. The Australian Christian Lobby has reported a concerning level of religious hatred in the nation. Managing director Martyn Iles said the organisation has provided assistance in about 50 matters related to legal persecution on the basis of religious belief.
During the same-sex marriage debate, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, reported “unprecedented abuse” directed at Christian individuals and organisations. Church leaders were prevented from meeting at the Mercure Hotel in Sydney after queer activists threatened hotel staff. Gay marriage backers called for a boycott of Coopers beer after a video featuring Australian politicians discussing diverse views on same-sex marriage was aired. A doctor, Pansy Lai, was attacked by queer activists after she went public with traditional views on marriage. They demanded her deregistration. A young woman was fired from her job after posting support for traditional marriage on her Facebook page.
IBM managing partner Mark Allaby was targeted by activists after they discovered his ties to a Christian internship program at the Lachlan Macquarie Institute. The charity had been given official permission to keep its board members’ names confidential after sustained anti-Christian abuse.
Consider too incidents of violence against Christian individuals and organisations. A Greek Orthodox man was reportedly beaten for wearing a cross on the streets of Sydney. Allegedly, men of Middle Eastern appearance attacked him. According to The Daily Telegraph, the men tore the crucifix from his neck, swearing “f . . k Jesus” and referring to “Allah”. When his girlfriend tried to intervene, two Arabic-speaking women allegedly attacked her.
In recent years, much anti-Christian abuse has been justified by appeal to queer politics. Jaden Duong, a man accused of driving a burning van into the ACL office in Canberra, was a gay activist who opposed the group’s “position on sexuality”.
The Australian reported that police had referred to the attack as a “car fire” and denied it was “politically, religiously or ideologically motivated”.
International human rights organisations have noted the inadequacy of Australian law when it comes to protecting faith-based freedoms. Despite repeated assurances, former PM Malcolm Turnbull did not provide substantive protections for religious freedom when the government legislated same-sex marriage. The lack of due regard for faith communities has created an imbalance in the law.
Same-sex marriage legalisation has given rise to taxpayer-funded powers to prosecute dissenters from queer ideology under anti-discrimination law. There are dozens of cases internationally where Christians have been brought before courts and tribunals after expressing support for the traditional conception of marriage. Queer activists are using taxpayer-funded equal opportunity and anti-discrimination commissions to take legal action against people of faith.
There is sufficient evidence to suggest laws should protect both freedom to exercise religion and freedom from state interference in religious activity. However, the law should not permit discrimination against a person on the basis of sexuality.
Likewise, no religious individuals or organisations should be compelled to support political beliefs or advocate ideology that is contrary to their faith. This is what happened in Ireland when a Christian baker was prosecuted for not writing the slogan “Support gay marriage” on a cake.
Religious freedom is the subject of private conscience and a public good that provides for civil society by limiting state authority over family, friendships and faith. It is essential to liberal democracy and the flourishing of liberty. In the Western context, religious freedom empowers citizens to live according to their innermost beliefs while respecting the basic rules that govern open society. Without it, we would be unfree.
Former deputy prime minister John Anderson recently interviewed Jennifer Oriel about religious freedom. The conversation is available online at johnanderson.net.au.
Dr Jennifer Oriel is a columnist with a PhD in political science. She writes a weekly column in The Australian. Dr Oriel’s academic work has been featured on the syllabi of Harvard University, the University of… Read more