The Ruddock Religious Freedom Roadshow
Written submissions to his inquiry into the ‘protection’ of religious freedoms – which Phillip Ruddock says will form the basis of the recommendations of his review ‘panel’ – have now closed. The report is due at the end of March.
In the meantime the panel is jaunting round the country conducting confidential invitation-only chats with interested parties. These little covens will not be documented or recorded, so we won’t know who got a invitation, or what they said, or what the panel asked (members of the panel may, however, take notes if they wish). Ruddock says it’s so that people will speak more freely. The more cynical among us wonder if this is so that there no written records that can later be exhumed under Freedom of Information law.
But secret they remain, so we shall just have to imagine the expletive-laden diatribes of those who feel dudded by the government passing a same-sex marriage bill that panders to their prejudices and phobias. In a way, I’m grateful. some of the written submissions are sick-making enough.
During the postal survey they threatened to sack gay teachers, nurses and other staff if they got married. These are ordinary jobs providing secular services, such as the teaching of geography, or the changing of bandages, or the wiping of elderly bottoms, not the “now it’s a rice cracker, now it’s human flesh” (ugh) magical incantations and so forth.
They claim this is not discrimination but, as Professor Parkinson helpfully explains, ‘selection’. And ‘selection’ is not ‘discrimination’. http://edcomm.org.au/blog/freedom-to-select-is-not-freedom-to-discriminate/ (well, actually it is, unless you have a nitpicking Jesuitical turn of mind. You know, the kind that says you haven’t broken your vow of celibacy by penetrating a little boys bottom, because he’s not a mature female)
“There is a big difference between the right to select on certain relevant criteria, and the right to discriminate. If a Thai restaurant wants to select Thai staff for its business, it is not discriminating against Turkish, Taiwanese or Timorese applicants for jobs. It is simply wanting to choose staff which fit with its ethnic character.”
Actually, it self-evidently is discriminating, that is, ‘selecting’ people on the basis of innate characteristics that have no effect on their ability to do the job. Plus, in my experience, restaurants don’t bother with this much. I’ve been to Lygon Street restaurants where the nearest the heavily accented ‘Italian’ waiters have ever been to Italy is Sorrento on the bay, and French bistros whose standard issue flirty ‘French’ waiters got their accents from Manu Feldel (who sounds fake to me anyway).
A similar piece of sophistry turned up in the submission by the Roman hierarchy: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/feb/15/catholic-church-says-its-hiring-practices-do-not-discriminate-against-gay-people
The Catholic church submitted that its teaching “makes it clear that a gay person should be assessed for employment on the same basis as anyone else… That is, staff in a school could reasonably be expected to support the teachings of the particular religion, to not undermine that teaching and to act as role models to their students,” it said.
In defence of that right, the Catholic church said the freedom for its schools to “employ staff who embrace Christianity is essential for providing effective religious education and faith formation to their students”.
It said staff have a “professional obligation … to do nothing publicly that would undermine the transmission of those teachings”.
So presumably a guilt-ridden self-hating gay teacher who told his pupils he was gay, intrinsically sinful and disordered, nightly praying to be turned straight, would be perfectly acceptable? Oh, wait, they already have them. They’re called “priests”. The church went on to say:
… nobody was compelled to work in Catholic schools and, because their religious ethos was “widely understood”, the powers of religious schools to use discrimination law exemptions when making employment decisions have been used “very rarely”.
This is, to say the least, disingenuous. Almost 40% of Australian children are educated in religious establishments, which, by the church’s rules, may not employ LGBTI staff unless they remain strictly celibate and closeted. These teachers live in constant fear of being outed. Believe me, I’ve known a few.
They live in a world where decriminalisation might never have happened. They can summarily dismissed at any time if their sexuality becomes known, e.g., to a parent. Once dismissed, they will never work in a religious school again. They are blacklisted.
Think about that: 40% of the educational sector is closed to them forever. Of course the church uses its exemptions “very rarely”. It has no need to: the fear is enough.
That same fear is wielded to control the private lives of single women who become pregnant: they may find themselves jobless in an instant, with no redress. Single men discovered to be living with their de factos. The church has an untrammelled power to cow its employees that is afforded to no other employer.
Before male homosexuality was partly decriminalised in Britain, you could go to prison for gay sex. This was commonly recognised as a Blackmailers Charter, and many gay men were driven to suicide when they could longer pay off their blackmailers.
This ‘religious exemption’ puts a similar power over LGBTI staff in religious institutions into the hands of would-be blackmailers: pay up or I’ll tell the school, and you could be banned from working in Catholic businesses for life.
Of course, the people who run these schools and businesses are not fools. They generally know who their LGBTI staff are, and turn a blind eye, so long as they don’t make too much fuss. Like, about pay and conditions, for example.
The Anglican Church in Sydney is little better than the Catholics, resorting to slightly veiled threats to, for example, cease tending the sick, caring for the aged, feeding the poor and doing other works of Christian charity, if it doesn’t get its way:
The Anglican Church of Sydney submitted that calls to remove religious exemptions from discrimination law were a form of “hard secularism” that would “have significant implications for faith-based hospitals, nursing homes, retirement homes, welfare providers and educational institutions”.
It claimed these agencies would even be forced to close, withdraw from receiving government funds or be “forced to comply with policies contrary to their religious beliefs or doctrine”.
Christian compassion be buggered, in other words, if we don’t get our way. But from a secular perspective, religious ‘privileges already go much too far https://newmatilda.com/2018/02/07/one-rule-save-religious-right-hire-fire/
Indisputably, religion asserts its current raft of freedoms through exclusive exemptions from Australian law. They are privileges not accessible to the 78 per cent of citizens who believe the constitution was framed on secular principles, with the foundational concept of separation between Church and State. Under federal law, protection of ‘religious freedom’ and legal exemptions include:
Fair Work Act
Age Discrimination Ac
Sex Discrimination Act
Section 116 of the Constitution.
And religions pay no tax under the Charities Act and Tax Act — based on the sole criterion of “Advancing Religion.”
International and State laws double this list of entitlements to all faiths!
Here’s the problem. Religion is now, collectively, one of the largest employers in the nation. Private religious schools currently enrol close to 40 per cent of all children — that alone is a huge workforce. Include, too, all the private hospitals, aged care facilities, employment agencies, charities, shelters, and a raft of commercial enterprises, and the total number of religious employees is staggering.
And the churches want to be in a position to force all these people to order their private lives as the churches dictate, or be shut out from or lose their employment. And to leave them vulnerable to blackmail. Very Christian.
Add to this vast and unjustified privilege the fact that these religious organisations are in fact vast commercial businesses, employ a huge tranche of the Australian workforce, pay little to no rates or taxes, and are propped up by vast sums of money paid by governments – that is, you and me – for their services. Non-religious agencies struggle to compete. http://www.smh.com.au/comment/rise-of-private-schools-marks-return-to-19th-century-waste-20140207-32745.html
Beginning with the Jobs Network that replaced the Commonwealth Employment Service during the Howard government’s first term, religious agencies have proved successful players in the market for contracts for what were previously government services. This was not necessarily because the services or the clients who used them were inherently religious.
As long-standing providers on the margins of the public system, religious agencies have the experience and infrastructure ready to expand when the need arises. They are also used to working with volunteers, and their paid employees often share elements of a volunteer ethos, including typically being among the most under-unionised in the workforce, meaning religious organisations can undercut public services on price.
Conveniently for cost-cutting governments, religious organisations are able to draw on their employees’ motivations of love and service – and perhaps evangelical zeal – to compensate for anything missing in the way of salary and conditions.
I must add the obligatory disclaimer: that not all churches or other faith organisations are greedily demanding more. Many are comfortable with the current situation. Some even argue they already have too many privileges. Yes, they do. Religions already have way too much power and money. It is time to give them less, not more.
Submissions to the Ruddock review panel here http://www.thestirrer.com.au/submissions-to-the-ruddock-expert-panel/