Refusing to serve women or people of colour is not an act of “conscientious objection”.
It is simply discrimination.
Extract (full submission below)
As one of the historic peace churches, Quakers have a long history of conscientious
Objection, back to the 17th century when the first generation of Quakers proclaimed their
absolute opposition to fighting wars “under any pretence whatsoever”. At times, Quakers
have suffered legal penalties for this stand even as Quakers sought through efforts such
as the Friends Ambulance Unit in World War I and subsequently to relieve the suffering
of the wounded.
We consider that conscientious objection has developed a clear meaning over the years. It
means taking a principled stand against harming your fellow human beings or other living
creatures. The clearest example of this is the refusal to take up arms.
Conscientious objection does not refer to just any strongly held personal belief. For
example, no matter how strongly you hold the conviction, refusing to serve women or
people of colour is not an act of “conscientious objection”. It is simply discrimination.
According equal rights to all, including to use commercial services provided by a
business, harms no-one. A religious person is not forced to alter their beliefs or their
religious observances by providing a service in an ordinary commercial situation. On the
other hand, refusing to provide services to people based on their inherent characteristics
harms the person discriminated against. Such harm is compounded where there may be
only a limited number of providers of certain services, such as in small and remote
Quakers recommend that any legislative recognition of a right to conscientious
objection on religious grounds be strictly limited to cases where the conscientious
objector objects to causing demonstrable harm to another person or living creature.