Tuesday 27 August 2019

Alteration to the Freedom of Religion Act or Religious Discrimination Act

In March 2017, the Liberal Party attempted to change the laws with regard to 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, which states:

             (1)  It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
                     (a)  the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and
                     (b)  the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.
Had these changes been brought about - purportedly in the name of free speech - some people could say things that others might reasonably consider to be disrespectful and discriminatory on the basis of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

Some elements of the government now look to do the opposite in certain regards. They would seek to protect religions from offense, insult, humiliation and intimidation. Furthermore, they would seek to enable religions to discriminate against those of different persuasions. This would be seen by the passive observer as the height of hypocrisy.

Belief in religions - as with ideology – are often opinionated and dynamic, but most importantly changeable, whereas “race, colour or national or ethnic origin” are fixed. As such, opinions, religions and ideologies are not deserving of the same protections as race, colour or national or ethnic origins.

The Folau case has highlighted the difficulties that changes to Freedom of Religion would cause. Israel Folau has ostensibly voiced his religious opinion that a vast array of people would go to hell. This despite an agreement with his employer that he would not voice his opinions in public. In so doing he could alienate the very people who patronise him, including other players, audiences and sponsors. This is not to take into account the harm that he might cause, including the offense to the unchangeable qualities of people in the LGBTI community. The Australian Christian Lobby was quick to defend Israel Folau.

On the other hand, Israel Folau’s father Eni of the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, believes the "everlasting torture and doom" of hell awaits most Christians, with Catholicism seen as "the synagogue of Satan" and "masked devil worship". Israel Folau’s cousin Josiah wrote to a parent who attended one of the church's services that "any devout Catholic person IS NOT A SAVED CHRISTIAN WHATSOEVER.
"Look at Catholic doctrine, almost 100% of it is false and is filled with lies,"

After meeting with the headmaster, Josiah “discontinued” his employment with the Catholic school where he was a teacher. The Australian Christian Lobby has not come out in support of Josiah Folau. The case of Israel and Josiah both involve people who have caused their employers discomfort. They are free to think whatever they like. They are also free to say whatever they like. However, there are consequences when said in the public domain.

If the government were to stop the ability to question, criticise, nay use terminology that the aggrieved would consider offensive or insulting - in the hope of insulating certain types of Christianity - then they would unwittingly protect from perceived offence and insult what many might consider to be ridiculous belief systems including Jehovah's Witnesses, Exclusive Brethren, Scientology and Islam. These religions – particularly in their more fundamental forms - are just a few that run counter to reasonable, acceptable and moral behaviours as viewed by the vast majority of Australians. Indeed, many of their practices run counter to the intentions and laws of the land. Many of their practices run counter to appropriate medical practice, educational enlightenment, organisational transparency and psychological well-being.

Of far greater concern to most Australians, were the government to enact laws banning criticism, offense or insult of religions, the government could unwittingly allow the Trojan horse of Islam to instigate blasphemy laws like those in Saudi Arabia, Iran and various other countries. After all, why should any form of Christianity be more or less protected than any other religion, regardless of how ridiculous such religions might seem.

It is imperative therefore that religious laws, which are already overly protective of religious practices, not be granted any further dispensation.

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