Religious discrimination laws coming to the boil

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It’s four years since the Australian Parliament amended the Marriage Act 1961 to provide that marriage means ‘the union of two people to the exclusion of all others’. The legislation followed the plebiscite on same sex marriage. To address the concerns of some religious groups, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull set up an expert panel chaired by long time Liberal Party minister Philip Ruddock to report on whether Australian law adequately protected the human right to freedom of religion. Having served on that committee, I made some public observations two years ago about our recommendations:

‘The Ruddock committee conceded that in theory there is a major lacuna in the array of anti-discrimination legislation. If you legislate to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, age, race, or disability, why not on the basis of religion? …We recommended both a tweaked tightening of the exemptions for religious bodies in the Sex Discrimination Act and the introduction of a Religious Discrimination Act. The delay in release of the report and the shambolic handling of its publication highlighted the political problem with our recommendations. The Turnbull wing of the Liberal Party favoured the tweaked tightening of the Sex Discrimination Act provisions but not the introduction of a Religious Discrimination Act. The Morrison wing of the Liberal Party were troubled by the former but attracted to the latter.’

The issue is now back on the boil both in Canberra and in Melbourne. The tweaking of exemptions for religious bodies is not just a Commonwealth concern.  It is also a state issue. This week the Victorian Parliament is considering the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill 2021. And the Morrison Government is secretly cobbling together a Religious Discrimination Bill.

The tweaking exercise relates to the discretion afforded to religious groups when it comes to the employment of staff in religious institutions. During our public consultations, the Ruddock panel ‘heard from a number of religious schools that argued that spiritual education is not just about teaching content in classes, but also the formation of a community or environment that supports the teachings of their faith. A key theme in these discussions was the need for staff to model the religious and moral convictions of the community and to uphold, or at least not to undermine, the religious ethos of the school. The Panel heard repeatedly that faith is “caught not taught”.’ I vividly recall one administrator from a very evangelical Pentecostal school telling us that the school gardener could be just as important as the religion teacher imparting to students a love of God and creation and contributing to a religious ethos in the school environment. 

The tweaking proposed by the Victorian government has upset the Victorian Catholic Bishops and the leaders of several minority faiths who have published an open letter complaining that ‘the Bill erroneously disconnects religious belief from conduct that is consistent with this belief.’  The November 16 letter from the religious leaders has no signatories from the Uniting Church, and only one Anglican bishop. The signatories speak of parents’ expectation that a ‘school’s environment faithfully represents the religious ethos in every respect including the conduct of all teachers and staff’. The Victorian bill would allow ‘reasonable and proportionate’ religious discrimination in the employment of staff when ‘conformity with the doctrines, beliefs or principles of the religion’ is ‘an inherent requirement of the position’. The religious leaders are left wondering what’s reasonable, what’s proportionate, and what’s inherent. Would the Victorian law allow the evangelical school to give preference employing the evangelical gardener?

 

'There’s no doubt that the Victorian law will set up a double standard between church and state. That’s the way our politicians like it, and the public has developed a greater tolerance and acceptance of such a double standard.' 

 

The Victorian government, trying to hose down religious concerns and uncertainty, claims that ‘there are similar laws in Tasmania which have existed for over a decade’. The Tasmanian law does not use the language of reasonableness, proportionality and inherency — all of which will require judicial clarification. The Tasmanian law contains a readily comprehensible provision which clearly covers the evangelical gardener. It allows religious discrimination ‘if the discrimination is in order to enable, or better enable, the educational institution to be conducted in accordance with (its) tenets, beliefs, teachings, principles or practices.’ The Victorian law might also permit the employment of the evangelical gardener in preference to the atheist gardener but we won’t know until a series of test cases are run on questions of reasonableness, inherency and proportionality.

The Victorian religious leaders raise the question: ‘If it is understood that it is advantageous for political parties and ministerial offices to hire staff who adhere to their beliefs and values, why is not the same standard being applied to religious organisations as well?’

The Victorian government trying to counter this oft-stated comparison has claimed that the proposed law would not create a double standard by allowing political parties to choose whom they hire while prohibiting religious groups from doing likewise. The Victorian law allows a politician to discriminate on the basis of political belief when employing any person in their electorate office no matter how routine or administrative their tasks might be. As we know from the Operation Watts IBAC Inquiry arising from the expose of Minister Adem Somyurek’s activities, even those on the lowest rung in an electorate office can be expected to contribute significantly to the political ethos and activity in the office.

There’s no doubt that the Victorian law will set up a double standard between church and state. That’s the way our politicians like it, and the public has developed a greater tolerance and acceptance of such a double standard. 

Meanwhile in Canberra, the Morrison government has continued a four year exercise of consultation behind closed doors about a proposed Religious Discrimination Bill. Three years ago, the Morrison Government decided not to pursue the Ruddock recommendation of a clean, lean Religious Discrimination Act.  Rather, in response to those who had long advocated a Religious Freedom Act, Attorney General Christian Porter attempted to formulate what we might call a Religious Discrimination PLUS Bill which would have included some bells and whistles you would not expect to find in a standard piece of anti-discrimination legislation. Porter formulated specific provisions to deal with the controversies relating to Archbishop Porteous’s run-in with the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner in Tasmania and Israel Folau’s run in with Rugby Australia. The Australian Human Rights Commission provided sound advice to government, ‘As a matter of principle, the Commission considers that legislating for single instances is not good legislative practice. As a matter of substance, it may lead to unintended and undesirable consequences.’

Now the new Attorney General Michaelia Cash is trying her hand at a bill for rushed presentation to Parliament before the next election. There is no way that the Senate will pass a Religious Discrimination PLUS Bill before the next election in March-April 2022. So it will be back to the drawing board after the election.

Given that all human rights are to be treated equally, it is not good enough that religious freedom at a national level be treated simply as a catalogue of exceptions or exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act. That leaves the perception that religious folk are always engaged in special pleading wanting to discriminate adversely against others.

 

'Religious schools, spared state intervention,  should be able to choose competent staff so as to better enable the educational institution to be conducted in accordance with its religious tenets, beliefs, teachings, principles or practices.'

 

Religious schools should be able to choose leaders for their staff who are animated by and supportive of the school’s religious ethos and beliefs. If political parties, women’s groups and Aboriginal organisations can be selective in their choice of leaders and staff who ‘get it’ and who want to ‘evangelise their mission’, why shouldn’t religious groups? Religious schools, spared state intervention,  should be able to choose competent staff so as to better enable the educational institution to be conducted in accordance with its religious tenets, beliefs, teachings, principles or practices.

We should not discriminate against our fellow citizens on the basis of religion or belief in the provision of public services or in our activities in the public square. But neither should we discriminate against our fellow citizens on the basis of their sexuality or gender in the provision of public services or in our activities in the public square. 

We are entitled to conduct our institutions consistent with Church teaching but not in a manner which discriminates adversely against those of a different sexual orientation. We should treat them in the same manner as those of a heterosexual orientation. If we were to insist that all heterosexual teachers be celibate or living in a sacramental marriage, we would have a case for discriminating against teachers in a same sex relationship.  But given that we turn a blind eye (or perhaps even a compassionate and understanding one) to those heterosexual teachers not living in a sacramental marriage, we should surely do the same for those thought to be living in a same sex relationship.

There is no chance of minority parties in the Senate signing off on anything more than a clean, lean religious discrimination law. There is no point in being too exercised with the present agitation about the bells and whistles that might be added to such a piece of legislation. Those bells and whistles will not materialise.  They are proposed simply as part of the government’s electoral strategy to distinguish itself from Labor and to deliver on promises to its core constituency.  Labor and the Greens will oppose any Religious Discrimination PLUS Bill. The Coalition would require three of the five votes on the Senate cross bench consisting of One Nation (2), Centre Alliance (1), Rex Patrick and Jacqui Lambie. I can’t see Rex Patrick and Jacqui Lambie coming on board. Lambie is on record that she ‘sees no case for the Coalition’s religious discrimination bill as Tasmanians already enjoy religious freedom and don’t want their discrimination laws changed’. Senator Patrick has said there is ‘a question about whether or not there is a problem or just a perception of a problem’. 

After the 2022 election, we will need to move on from the present polarised debate in Australia. During the Ruddock inquiry, key human rights NGOs supportive of the LGBT cause and organisations such as PIAC and the Human Rights Law Centre said they had ‘long advocated for legal protection of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief within a framework which guarantees robust human rights protections for all Australians’. It’s time to get back to finding common ground. Whoever wins the next election, I do hope that our federal politicians will have the good sense to legislate a neat and clean Religious Discrimination Act.

 

 

Frank BrennanFr Frank Brennan SJ is the Rector of Newman College, Melbourne, the Distinguished Fellow of the P M Glynn Institute, Australian Catholic University, and the former CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA). He is a peritus at the Fifth Plenary Council of the Australian Catholic Church.

Main image: Attorney General Michaelia Cash. (Sam Mooy/Getty Images News)

Topic tags: Frank Brennan, Anti-discrimination, Freedom of religion, Religious Discrimination Bill

 

 

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Existing comments

Frankly, I do not accept that there is any urgent or current need for religious discrimination legislation - and there are surely also more pressing issues for the federal parliament to attend to right now. The need (or otherwise) to enhance religions’ powers to discriminate should be considered against the more obvious and pressing need to improve religious governance (especially transparency and accountability). Removal of the privileged positions of ‘basic religious charities’ in Australian charities’ legislation should precede any consideration of bestowing further governance privileges on religions.


Andrew Phelan | 17 November 2021  

Thank you, Frank, for elucidating a very complex issue. It is, I believe, still a requirement that the Headmaster of Melbourne Grammar School be a practicing Anglican as it is an Anglican school, with the Archbishop as Head of the School Council. The masters in my time were mainly Anglican, but at least one, Brian Dixon, was Catholic. MGS was extremely tolerant, but I doubt they would want a teacher who was not in sympathy with their tolerant, Broad Church ethos. To me, that's fair enough. Christians and other religious people have their rights and I think these need protection. It took a very long time for religious freedom to be realised in the UK and Ireland and there were many martyrs to the struggle for it. It was worth struggling for. We do need the right to be religious or not. There seem to be some real militant atheists, often Marxist and fellow travellers around. They are the ones who want to suppress liberty, but you wouldn't know that from their Orwellian Newspeak.


Edward Fido | 18 November 2021  

This issue is to do with sex. More specifically, it’s to do with prohibiting anyone from quoting from the Bible, as did Israel Folau, if the quotation pertains to sex and the quotation offends somebody. More more specifically, it’s to do with nothing else – except banning the Bible.

I suppose one day it’ll be a criminal offence for a psychologist to ask a client who is a trophy child if she‘s ever wondered about the missing natural lineage, and that any client who receives this question must break the seal of professional confidentiality and report the offence to the police.


roy chen yee | 18 November 2021  
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'[E]xcept banning the Bible'. Well, the Church has been (and still is) pretty good at banning books and punishing those who express dissident opinions. Methinks Roy's Pot is at risk of calling Kettle black, and when the kettle is not really black anyway.


Ginger Meggs | 20 November 2021  

Like banning and criminalising 'trophy'?


roy chen yee | 21 November 2021  

No Roy, just banning and criminalising deliberate, provocative, and sustained abusive speech.


Ginger Meggs | 22 November 2021  

One day, I hope Roy, it will be a criminal offence for anyone to refer to any child as a 'trophy'


Ginger Meggs | 20 November 2021  

There's a post in the Arts and Culture section called Revisiting American Dirt about people who get snippy about who can say what.


roy chen yee | 21 November 2021  

The key, I think, Frank, is in your statement: "neither should we discriminate against our fellow citizens on the basis of their sexuality or gender . . . "


Peter Johnstone | 18 November 2021  

To say it bluntly, Frank: you are tweaking the historical record. It was NOT a plebiscite. It was a social survey, a bogus one at that with one closed yes/no question and it received 48% approval from those who could have voted. It was a device concocted by Mr Dutton MP once the legislation for a plebiscite was rejected. It then became the means to engineer protection of the Liberal Party from splitting. Mr Turnbull sought to capture the "Marriage Equality" electoral prize under his watch, since by then the Labor Party had mandated SSM as a precondition for any pre-selection of candidates. The advice of the panel should have been tendered before the Marriage Act was amended and instead you and your fellow jurists sat under a new legal framework, a law that presumes that legislation creates marriage. The marriage beliefs of 32% of the population - those who said "No" in the bogus survey - are no longer ascribe due respect in the Marriage Act. The Ruddock panel completely missed the problem that is created by the legislation for a civil wedding of those seeking to be married as husband and wife in a civil ceremony.


Bruce Wearne | 18 November 2021  
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How does the Marriage Act 'no long ascribe due respect' for your, or anyone's, views, Bruce? What would your idea of 'due respect' look like? A lack of 'due respect' for other views?


Ginger Meggs | 20 November 2021  

How, precisely, does the Marriage Act 'no longer ascribe due respect' to your '32% of the population'. Bruce? How would you correct that? By making it not 'ascribe respect' to the views of others?


Ginger Meggs | 20 November 2021  

i used to work as a volunteer at St Vincent De Paul Centre in nsw and the law stated that we were NOT ALLOWED to discriminate against a fellow volunteers gender,age, RELIGION or sexual preferences colour or background is that wrong to do that I DO NOT THINK SO
i still hold to these principlals especially as i amliving in aged care
why are peoplenot following these ways


Maryellen Flynn | 18 November 2021  
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And the simple answer, Maryellen, is that if you discriminate against people on the basis of their private beliefs instead of their record of abiding by the institution's professional code of ethics, you may not have the quality of professional care that you require. Ask any religious executive of a large nursing home or college, as I have done in my own research, and I'm sure they would say they'd rather rather employ someone on the basis of their record of behaving professionally than their formal concession to the position of the Catholic magisterium, which is what the fundamentalists are baying after. While the prerogative to employ practicing Catholics in Religious Education and chaplaincy positions is always sacrosanct, there's no evidence why faith affiliation should matter in the appointment of a Mathematics educator or renal surgeon. Pastoral attitudes, while expected from all who serve, do not at all correlate with the religious views of the service providing person. I, for one, should hate to have someone with Roy's views, and who posts extensively in Eureka Street, comforting me as I breathe my last, with dire warnings of the Judgment he insists in every post of his that is to follow!


Michael Furtado | 23 November 2021  

When evangelical fundamentalists jump up and down about heaven and hell but not about purgatory, they are misreading the Bible (or only reading their version of it which, being a few books short of a canon, doesn’t contain 2 Maccabees which establishes support for the concept of purgatory).

When modernists jump up and down about fundamentalists jumping up and down about heaven and hell, they are ignoring the purgatory that is in their own Catholic bible so they can eventually extinguish the idea of hell and replace God with an idol called Love, or the god of it's-alright-to-make-mistakes, viz. ‘It’s a central aspect to my understanding of the Incarnation. No book of rules can contain it’ (When love raises its head on the shop floor, 7/11/21).

There are no gods of it’s-alright-to-make-mistakes. Even Buddhism and Hinduism, incorrectly cited as liberal and liberating experiences of good and evil as maya or illusion, don’t say- in practice - that it is alright to make mistakes. The proof is that both – in practice – postulate the hells of recurring reincarnation into lower forms of life or more unpleasant human life experiences.

If there is no purgatory, you can make hell appear to be an overreaction to what seem, in the culture of the time, minor issues. Then, you can abolish the idea of hell and justify all your mistakes in life such as divorce (as failed attempts at love) and even the moral slavery that is involved when you fashion a trophy child as a kind of living statue to your ‘love’.


roy chen yee | 24 November 2021  

But what if, Roy, there really is no purgatory, no hell and no heaven, and that when we die we go the same way that all other once living organisms go? What impact would believing that have on you ethics and morality? Just imagine for the moment that that is so and tell us how YOU (not shouting, can't do italics) would live and relate to others.


Ginger Meggs | 27 November 2021  

Frank covers the main issues in an equable and fair-minded way. I concur with his recommendations. Edward's comments are meaningless within the context of a UK education system that requires all schools, whether religious or not, to abide by non-discriminatory legislation. His quid-pro-quo in Australia can easily be read these days as us widely ignoring Church teaching about our schools being 'first and foremost for the poor' by doing deals with the conservative sides of politics and denying access to our teaching services to those who cannot pay. What a soulless sacrifice and at what an enormous cost to evangelisation! Additionally, his scapegoating of Marxists displays his arrant incapacity to think. Meantime Roy and his Natural Law supporting claque should be left counting sperm, a sick fascination that St Thomas Aquinas, without the support of a C12th microscope, shouldn't be sacrificed for, for fear that we sweep the entire foundation of the Church's Social Teaching, for which he bears responsibility, over the cliff and along with it the Holy Father and half of the Society of Jesus and it supporters with it! A quandary, indeed, considering that at least half the clergy, without whose pastoral services we'd collapse, are gay!


Michael Furtado | 19 November 2021  
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‘half the clergy, without whose pastoral services we'd collapse, are gay!’ If you take a vow of chastity and celibacy, you’ve moved beyond that condition hated by the social left, ‘binary’. You are neither gay nor straight, and ascribing one or other to a priest makes as much sense as ascribing one or the other to God or, for that matter, to Jesus, or to a glorified body after Christ returns.


roy chen yee | 19 November 2021  

You seem to have strong opinions on gay/straight, celibate/non-celibate, chaste/nonchaste, male/female 'binaries' Roy so you must have a lot of knowledge or experience. But you've never told us on which side of each of those 'binaries' you sit.


Ginger Meggs | 20 November 2021  

Straight, Ginger Meggs, not that it matters because it’s the logic of homosexual practice that is questioned. But if you want to argue the 'You don’t know what it’s like because you’ve never been....’ line, sure, I’ve never had a struggle with sex or gender orientation. So? At the end of the day, it’s the logic of the condition that is debated, not the emotion of sympathy or empathy towards it, and here’s a relevant example from a hip, new mansion (call it M for MAP?) in the disorganisation that is the LGBTIQ+ house: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10210713/Trans-professor-placed-leave-controversially-defending-pedophiles.html


roy chen yee | 21 November 2021  

Ginger, that's a gruesome leap of logic Roy makes, from your plea for equal treatment of GLBTIQ people to citing an example of an American transgender academic justifying pedophile behavior! The issue that blinds Roy here is that children have rights too and are unable to give consent to predatory adults. I encountered the same situation in a heterosexual head of Department at Glasgow Caledonian University (she was married to a staff member) where I once taught and who advanced the view, in a unit on the Ethics of Child Care that I taught, that, since children also sometimes responded to physical affection they should be free to seek out satisfaction for their cravings with permissive adults.


Michael Furtado | 23 November 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘ children have rights too and are unable to give consent to predatory adults.’

Certainly not to being deprived of nurture in one line of their genetic provenance.

As for the American case, that shows that logic unconstrained by moral presupposition will take you anywhere --- like depriving a child of nurture in one line of its genetic provenance.

What is moral presupposition? In that case, the pushback is that an individual must not hold a certain idea in his or her head. No, no, no, no. Not even if you can safely contain the expression of the thought to playing with sex dolls.

But, what, logically, is the difference between this stern proscription and an idea from not so long ago that an individual must not hold the idea in his head that a man can have sexual love for a man or a woman can have sexual love for a woman? That a child cannot give informed consent when adults say no? But, what makes a homosexual adult be able to give informed consent when God says no?

A child is materially immature in relation to the living adults that are more materially mature than it. But that means a living adult is spiritually immature because there are living spirits that are more spiritually mature than it. On that basis, not only is the MAP balloon popped, but so too is the good professor’s transgender balloon and the, by now, archaic, balloons of male and female homosexuality.


roy chen yee | 24 November 2021  

Straight. OK Roy... and celibate and chaste ?


Ginger Meggs | 27 November 2021  

Thanks Frank. A word for that Gardener and the nature of her/his influence. As a child of a large “un-churched” family, we were sent to a middle of the road Anglican school in the 50s and 60s for a “good education”. There I discovered for myself that faith is definitely both taught and caught and, for me, this was at least as much from watching the gardeners and cleaners and several war-damaged agnostic teachers as it was from listening to our formal Divinity teachers, only one of whom was convincing. Children hungry for love and meaning and purpose eventually work out for themselves who is a “true believer” in any faith worth having. And who is not. A wise school understands this and a good government helps protect it.


Linda Walter | 19 November 2021  

The response of some religious leaders expressing opposition to the Victorian governments Discriminations Bill before the parliament fails to recognize the contribution that Christian’s of all persuasions have given to this form of public service and is disingenuous of those who still are working in the field. Further the claim that the legislation is an attack on religious bodies and is strident secularism is misplaced and offensive. In my experience staff both people of faith and those who do not hold a religious belief compatible with the mission of a faith-based agency have always acted in the best interest of the clients they work with, do not proselytize in any way and act with integrity and honesty. They enrich service delivery and provide insights that may not otherwise have been addressed. During my time as a senior executive of 6 large community service agencies religious leaders have always been fully supportive. The current option by some is in my view misplaced .


Ray Cleary
ray@theclearys.com.au


rayCleary | 19 November 2021  

" A key theme in these discussions was the need for staff to model the religious and moral convictions of the community and to uphold, or at least not to undermine, the religious ethos of the school. The Panel heard repeatedly that faith is “caught not taught”.

Well, it's always good to get a laugh on a Friday. Can I just ask, of all those students who might have caught religion while at their religious school, how many in fact did? What percentage of those religious school students continued on as churchgoers, or had any active participation/observance in that religion at all?. In my experience it was probably less than 5%, in other words, practically nobody. The gardener needs to model religious behaviour - what a joke. Yet again, the churches look everywhere but at the source of the problem.


Russell | 19 November 2021  

While there is always a need “to finding common ground” in any pluralistic society, some activist groups are only interested in advancing their cause to the detriment of others.
In the USA, the Build Back Better Act was touted as beneficial to children and parents. And yet it appears that child-care facilities affiliated with religious institutions may miss out on federal largesse due to a clash between religious liberty and anti-discrimination laws.
Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says that anti-discrimination rights threaten “to displace the actual recognition and respect for religious liberty that is demanded by the United States Constitution.” There is “an intentional effort to bring all of these programs under the moral revolution mandated by the federal government”, to the detriment of religious liberty.
If the First Amendment to protect religious liberty gets in the way of the radicals’ agenda, they will try to restrict it. Someone noted that we have moved beyond the “bake the cake, bigot” to “we’re going to withhold federal funds from you unless you play by all of our rules, bigot.” With some radicals there is no common ground.


Ross Howard | 19 November 2021  
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Ross, I think your use of the term 'radical' would immensely strengthen your point were you to cite the exchange in Andy Hamilton's ES article of November 24. The radical right, who are the major threat today, in the way that revolutionary communists were at the beginning of the C20th, share with 'has-been communism' of an earlier era, though in today's post-marxist world, all the characteristics of illiberalism and anti-democracy that you deplore. This, with respect, would considerably tighten and refine the somewhat 'overbroad' brush with which you take to your canvas, so to speak, and draw insightful others to support the generally desirable anti-authoritarian case that you seem to wish to make. By way of elucidation, Daniel Bell, the analyst of the Radical Right, showed that positioning politics on a simple Left-Right spectrum offered an inadequate depiction of the complexity of politics. In his view, a vertical spectrum indicating Liberty at the top end and Authoritarianism at the other, more precisely helps locate where the population stands in relation to politics. Those North of the horizontal Left-Right axis, whether of the Left or Right, are generally socially liberal, while others South of it comprise (Left-wing) Communists and (Right-wing) Fascists.


Michael Furtado | 29 November 2021  

roy chen yee, your comment ranges between deception to downright lies. Yes, it IS about sex. But the laws in question are there to strengthen the position of people like you and Israel Folau who use the bible selectively to engage in homophobia. Homophobia is older and broader than our Older and Newer Testaments. If it was simply about sex, then why all the fuss? Have you watched the last broadcast of "Australian Story" on the ABC which documents the children of sperm donors who fought to find out who their parents were? These were not "trophy children" as you describe them of homosexual couples, but offspring of singles mothers who sought anonymous sperm donors. These children have since reclaimed their right to know who their biological parents are.
The fact that you concentrate your vitriol on LGBTI people is a reason we need a law such as the one in question. But most LGBTI people don't want such a law..... we are happy with the law as it is.


AURELIUS | 19 November 2021  
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‘who use the bible selectively’

It’s not selective. St. Paul is very clear on who doesn’t enter the kingdom and what he says is guaranteed to be true by the Holy Spirit. Israel Folau wasn’t making up stuff. He was reporting what the Bible says.

‘reclaimed their right to know who their biological parents are’

That’s not enough. The right is to be nurtured by both biological parents.


roy chen yee | 20 November 2021  

Yes roy chen yee, St Paul was not selective at all.... unless you glean your faith from the King James interpretation/version of the bible.
In your view, it seems St Paul was ignorant of Catholic teaching the "homosexuality" in itself was not sinful, I guess he should have brushed up on his catechism knowlege, Most English translations refer to "fornication" which in my view refers to sexual promiscuousness, cheating and unfaithfulness within one's state of living.
And if you are so passionate about the evils of surrogacy, why do you only aim your condemnation on the minority who use surrogacy/artificial insemination. The majority of surrogate births are hetero situations. You are communicating more like a desperate politician desperate to be right at all costs rather than a compassionate Christian willing to give people the benefit of the doubt and see goodness rather than malice.


AURELIUS | 22 November 2021  

I’m pretty sure I’ve said a few times that being homosexual is neither here nor there but what you do about it has moral implications.

‘Fornication’ isn’t the only thing that is mentioned in that scripture.

Your use of ‘surrogacy’ is slippery. The issue is not ‘surrogacy’ which, as a procedure, can be morally problematic for heterosexuals too. The issue is whether the child is raised by both of its genetic parents.

The slippery slope doesn’t begin with the outlier. It starts with members of the conventional majority taking liberties with their liberty and slipping into licence. Same-sex marriage didn’t begin with homosexuals. The logic for it began when heterosexuals assumed the privilege to divorce and remarry, to move children into blended families away from the care of a genetic parent; when parents abandoned the care of their children to found new families; when couples with reproductive difficulties used a stranger’s egg or sperm.

The order of nature comes from God. When you weaken that order, you provide the philosophical excuse for other ways of thinking to benefit as opportunistic infections. But it takes a lot of deliberate activity to weaken that order. A good analogy is AIDS. Weird diseases, the agents of which already exist inside the body, occur as opportunistic infections when the immune system weakens. But, every day, there are scores of people dying in palliative care whose immune systems, weak as they are, are still strong enough to prevent these opportunistic infections.

Unless there is a pressing emergency, a child is meant to be nurtured by its genetic parents. Any system which can’t deliver that is invalid. That is the basis of the Stolen Generations idea.


roy chen yee | 23 November 2021  

The 'Stolen Generations idea' has nothing to do with that Roy. You're just making things up again. The removal of children from they aboriginal families was all about racism. The purpose was to 'breed the black out of them'. That you fail to recognise this is another example of your ignorance of Australian history.


Ginger Meggs | 26 November 2021  

‘‘The removal of children from their aboriginal families was all about racism.’ So, it would have been OK if they were white but poor? The pushback was because children should stay with their kin. That’s why you can’t adopt kids from dysfunctional homes, you can only foster them because of the emergencies involved.


roy chen yee | 26 November 2021  

‘The removal of children from their aboriginal families was all about racism.’ So, it would have been OK if they were white but poor? The pushback was because children should stay with their kin. That’s why you can’t adopt kids from dysfunctional homes, you can only foster them because of the emergencies involved.


roy chen yee | 28 November 2021  

The stolen children were 'white' Roy, that's the point that you are missing. The children that were taken were the lighter-skinned ones, the ones who had been fathered or grandfathered by 'white' men. The view was that by bringing them into 'white' society, their 'blackness' could be bred out of their progeny over time. Their darker-skinned siblings and cousins were left to eventually die out. You can't get a policy more racial than that.


Ginger Meggs | 03 December 2021  

Even sadder, Aurelius, is that Roy doesn't just concentrate his vitriol on LGBTQI persons, but 'consecrates' his view to an imagined God of the OT. Even that God, almost never a 'kindly Father', for how could 'He' be without a Son to share 'His' humanity with us, is/was, as we Judeo-Christians construct 'Him', nevertheless a just God, 'slow to anger and full of compassion'. Roy has almost completely missed what the precedent of Jesus living among us means. Its almost as if the New Testament has passed him by, perennially 'ranting' as he does. That's how Ben Jonson describes Ananias the Soothsayer, recently alluded to in a marvelous essay in ES about the relevance of 'The Alchemist' to our times. Roy's revivalism doesn't even hold out hope for the struggling among us to attain Paradise. Our 'stain' of homosexuality, since it is innate in us, can never be expunged. We are, according to Roy, doomed from the day we are born. Surrogate parents, whether same-sex or not, are carefully-vetted and, from experience, make excellent and loving parents, often moreso than 'natural' parents. Is is surely the test of a love that's 'vulnerable' that such exemplary parents meet, regardless of 'gender-disorder'!


Michael Furtado | 20 November 2021  

I struggle to follow your logic, Roy. Without those priests and nuns who are gay, whether celibate or not, there would be fewer witnesses to Christ in our Church. They are the mainstay of our Pastoral ministry. Consider all aspects of ministry, especially those with a reputation for unstinting support for the poor and marginalised, and there you are likely to find a gay woman or man. Far from casting aspersions or intruding upon their privacy by confronting them, the ones I know about in a lifetime spent traversing the globe, including nearly every priest or nun with whom I have worked intimately, both within the confessional and outside, have responded with a 'So am I' when I have revealed the hidden and intimate details of my life to them. Not only have they been the mainstay of my support system and spiritual journey, they have been the most ardent supporters of one another. I am convinced in this regard that several of the greatest luminaries of the Christian Church, including St Bernard of Clairvaux, St Jeanne d'Arc, St Anselm, St Sebastian, St Brigid of Ireland, St John delaCruz, St John the Evangelist, St Francis d'Assisi and St Augustine were gay. (Sadly, no Jesuits yet; although I know and safeguard the privacy of a few).


Michael Furtado | 20 November 2021  
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MF a plethora of Jesuits gays who were priests/brothers have abused children. "Jesuit officials have denied transferring molesting priests to Alaska, saying that it was a prestigious assignment for the most courageous and faithful. In Jesuit fundraising literature, Eskimo villages were called “the world’s most difficult mission field.”

Many plaintiffs said their once devoutly Catholic villages -- cut off from the world and without law enforcement -- offered a perfect setting for a molesting priest. In 2005, The Times published a story about Joseph Lundowski, a Jesuit deacon who allegedly sexually abused nearly every boy in two small villages on St. Michael Island between 1968 and 1975."

Lundowski’s accusers -- now in their 40s and 50s -- said the abuse led to alcoholism, violence, emotional problems and suicide attempts. They kept their secret -- not even talking about it among themselves -- until the Catholic Church sex scandal erupted in 2002.

That year, Roosa filed the first civil suit against the Jesuits and the Diocese of Fairbanks. The cases against the diocese are still pending. LA Times Nov 2007.
Closer to home MF If you wish to preserve the quaint notion that sexual orientation and pedophilia are not linked- go to Broken Rites and type "Jesuits" into the search bar. Inter alia, WS,SH,PQ,JB,DR, PS and VH to name a few recidivists if you are squeamish.


Francis Armstrong | 23 November 2021  

Michael Furtado and Aurelius. Firstly, welcome back Aurelius. I suspect there are those other than me who have missed your commentary over recent times. Glad to find that you are still with us! Now to the matter of homophobia.. There are those who believe that the very essence of true love is the urge to reproduce the object of that love in one's children. It is a great shame that such can't be attained through homosexual union or "marriage", in those who find a mutual lifelong attachment, a soul mate, in someone of the same sex. Saying that is the way it is does not, however, represent homophobia and can exist with genuine admiration and respect for a homosexual person. Homophobia exists when a person is vilified for a homosexual orientation - an extreme position which incidentally was not what Israel Folau did when quoting the ancient health ordinances of the writer Leviticus. What is difficult to understand, however, is why any person, regardless of sexual orientation, would choose to stand on the hilltops of life with a megaphone broadcasting to all and sundry their sexual preference and why such behaviour appears to be confined to those of homosexual orientation. Seems rather immature really but is enduringly sad, perhaps a cry for acceptance arising from the midst of dismay .


john frawley | 22 November 2021  
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I accept that you're too well educated to be a homophobe. You need to consider the power you blindly wield. Homosexual persons of our generation have invariably been denied an identity you took for granted and experienced multiple levels of discrimination. To mingle openly and without pretence for gay persons of my generation, without seeking refuge in the cultural ghettos to which many of us were expected to be confined, is/was enormously inequitable and unjust. It follows that for a 'lippy' few we have had to 'perform' all our lives, not just to speak up and be treated equally but, in several senses at great cost to our peace of mind as well as our careers. Most of us were additionally forced to conform to the marital expectations that society had of us, often at immense psychological cost to ourselves and our partners. Add to that the scourge of being regarded as 'disfigured' in the Church of our upbringing, without evidence from its Founder, and you have a boiling cauldron! You, by contrast, are heterosexual and, have grown up in an environment which, for all its everyday heteronormative struggles, has afforded you privileges, unseen by you, but denied to us!


Michael Furtado | 23 November 2021  

Very perceptive, john. Leviticus has been a fairly enduring public health act (of sorts), perhaps a bit out of date but maybe that's the nature of the elegance of fervent belief, a passionate, unquestioning acceptance of regulation and decree irrespective of nuanced failings. I'd guess for every zealous believer there's an equal supply of others who use the "but it doesn't say that..." approach or read different meanings into succinct phrases, lawyers. About 1/4 of the world population don't eat pork today, perhaps not just because Leviticus prohibited it 2,300 years ago, but I doubt any government Act could make people accept pork, like pork or eat it. On religious discrimination, even Jesus told the disciples "do not go into the cities of Samaritans"; even He could perhaps be accused of a religious discrimination. We can guess this was for any number of reasons why they should not go but it seems odd that someone so close to God and determined to spread the word and save man would exclude Gentiles and Samaritans from the fold. Good luck to our Attorneys General if they can draft a Bill and demonstrate Jesus would not have contravened it Himself.


ray | 23 November 2021  

There's a perverse logic in your post that undermines John Frawley's more open and authentically communicative position. It (your post) employs a mechanism called extrinsic re-think to connect two events that would otherwise have no semblance of comparison between them. Unlike us, as People of the Book, Muslims have precious little choice in challenging the law that forbids the consumption of pork, that is at least until the heat that questioning such a law generates and subsides to a future time when those who challenge it openly won't live in fear of their lives as GLBTIQ people did before the extension of Human Rights legislation to cover them. More worrying is your 'under the radar' inference that some exclusion of GLBTIQ people is justified in terms of the prohibitions cited in Leviticus and which were employed by fundamentalists to ostracise those suffering from HIV/AIDS. All these fancies ('constructions' of your's if you like, engaged in without obvious malice or venom are deeply pernicious, Ray, living in a world as we do in which GLBTIQ people in some Middle-Eastern Countries are still beheaded or stoned to death. Where is the civility in an exchange which, albeit conducted politely, doesn't challenge that?


Michael Furtado | 26 November 2021  

That’s a good summation Frank Brennan. Lets look at some recent examples.
“A FORMER Catholic principal admitted he knew an alleged paedophile teacher was a “risk” to his students after a child complained he’d sexually abused her, but failed to report him to police and kept him on as teacher and child protection officer. After intense questioning by barrister Andrew Naylor, counsel assisting the RC, sacked Toowoomba primary school principal Terence Hayes conceded he had “ultimate responsibility” to tell police of alleged sexual abuse.” Australian 26/2/2014. I’d venture that his sacking was justified.

Other sackings include a headmistress of an Anglican religious girls school having an affair out of wedlock. Two cases involve headmasters having affairs with student’s mothers.

The Equality Act 2010 (UK) makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone because of religion or belief, or because of a lack a religion or belief. ... It also protects those who are discriminated against because they are not Christians, regardless of whether they have another religion or no religious belief.

What if the belief held was that a paedophile had a right to molest children? In 1973, AB Francis Rush was installed in Brisbane. By then, complaints had reached the hierarchy about Priest McKeirnan's behaviour towards boys. Yet he was promoted to coordinator of Faith Education Services in the 1990s — dealing with religious education and sex education for all Brisbane Catholic schools. December 1997, RJ McKeirnan appeared in Brisbane Magistrate's Court, charged with 27 counts of indecent assault and indecent dealing, involving 13 boys, aged between 12 and 15, between 1964 and 1977. The charges involved McKeirnan either groping or masturbating the boys. Should this sort of behaviour be sackable? I’d venture that it should be.

Really the question of the right to terminate employment has to boil down to the facts. The Religious institutions though they may not sack because of belief or orientation, might consider it justified if the wrong message is being foisted on impressionable students either by propaganda or by behaviour.


Francis Armstrong | 23 November 2021  
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There is no doubt, Francis, that the instances that you raise of gross injustices against children, as with your passionate and unquestionably just defense of the Uighurs and others, offer a much-needed though formerly stifled defense of the principles of both secular as well as Judeo-Christian precepts about the protection of minorities and minors.

In such circumstances, the tireless work of Bravehearts and Hettie Johnston in combating the inefficiency or deliberate cover-ups of our hierarchy can never ever completely earn the deep and combined apologies and gratitude of those who didn't know or preferred to look the other way.

Bravehearts stands as a permanent witness to those who couldn't speak out and/or who took their lives as a result of the unspeakable damage done to them. Your courage in addressing such matters in these columns pays a proud and upstanding compliment to those who stand up universally for righteousness, especially against considerably unequal odds. I have personally and professionally always admired and commended you for this.

The question then arises about what is to be done about such injustices. While these are connected issues, the matter of penalty and reparation is always left to the courts and properly so. (Contd.)


Michael Furtado | 02 December 2021  

(Contd.) In regard to the separation of powers principle that underpins the business of liberal democracy, especially of the defense of minority rights that you and I both uphold, (e.g. in regard to the rights of the people of Hong Kong), the Court determined the matter of penalty as well as reform of policing matters, additional to focusing the glare of public inquiry as to how and why such injustices on why they escaped attention for so long. In this regard, I again commend you, Hettie Johnston and Bravehearts.

In further reference to your post above, especially as addressed in your penultimate paragraph, the Royal Commission Report revealed that our Bishops were wrong to hide such matters from the police, even when they knew and especially, as some of them truthfully admitted, when they placed forgiveness of the perpetrators above the rights of abused children.

Given that sentences have been served and policing considerably tightened, do you really think it fair and just, balanced even, to hold the current set of synodal bishops to account on the mistakes, and sins even, of their predecessors? Even to the point of linking homosexuality with pedophilia? Where does justice end and vigilantism begin?


Michael Furtado | 02 December 2021  

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