Notes for a Submission
Some further thoughts on religious exemptions, omitted from my submission to the Ruddock enquiry, in undeveloped note form. Please feel free to borrow for your own.
Publish your submission here
As the inquiry seems to want to keep submissions secret, I am happy to publish yours here if you don’t have a website of your own, or republish them from your own website.
The law legitimises as well as regulates
“The law has a ‘legitimating as well as a regulating function’. The broad language of s 81 of the EOA 2010 could allow organisations with only a tenuous connection to religion to avoid anti-discrimination legislation. As Evans and Ujvari argue, this conveys that the goal of equality is of limited value. As long as such broad exemptions are allowed by legislation, even if not relied on in practice, they will sustain, rather than challenge, the prejudices that people already hold.”
At issue is a very simple proposition: when religious belief and secular law collide, which should give way? The answer is equally simple: in a plural society in which all, religious and non-religious, are equal, secular law, which applies equally to all, always overrides religious law, which applies only to the adherents of a particular religion.
Anything else grants privileges to one group over another, and leads directly to injustices
Children and schools: kids can be kicked out for being LGBTI
or because their parents are LGBTI
Teachers can be fired for being LGBTI
They can’t have their cake and eat it
Religious exemptions are bad for business and contrary to directors obligations
When a religious group offer its services to the public, it is clearly willing to serve people who do not agree with its religious tenets. A religious owed business may, quite clearly, choose to serve only its own adherents, as for example Jewish schools do. This is religious freedom.
“Picking and choosing which people to serve is arbitrary and exclusionary and this is precisely the type of discrimination that anti-discrimination law aims to avoid.” This is an abuse of religious freedom.
“Leasing a property, baking a cake, and providing flowers are all non-religious services. Providing these services to same-sex weddings does not violate the religious group’s beliefs. Thus, it cannot impinge religious freedom.”
Will they refuse to bake wedding cakes for the previously divorced? Who “lived in sin” before marriage? Will they refuse to bake a birthday cake for a child of unwed parents? If they only want an exemption to refuse service to LGBTI, clearly, they are motivated by prejudice, not religion.
A possible compromise?
“A faith-based school can employ a gay physics teacher if that is all they can find (there is a chronic shortage) and then fire them when a straight one turns up, no questions asked.
“Religious organisations should nominate the grounds on which they discriminate – sexual orientation, marital status, reproductive choices, religious belief or lack thereof, opinions they don’t like, whatever it might be – and display this fact on all job ads, prospectuses, annual reports and advertising material. It is legal, after all.
“That way, gay teachers won’t waste precious time, energy and hope applying for teaching jobs they will never get. Parents with children attending religious schools will know the basis on which teaching staff are hired and students accepted. And women have every right to know which health providers will not give them the full range of reproductive options.”