Shelley Argent OAM is the National Spokesperson for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). She is one of the most effective advocates for the human rights of LGBTIQ people in Australia. As such, Shelley played a leading role during the Australian campaign for marriage equality. She believes fervently in freedom and equality for all and fears the impact of any religious freedoms legislation. ‘Just a Mum’ by Shelley Argent with Leanne Edmistone was released in June.
As a parent of a gay male, I hold grave concerns because of the proposed religious discrimination commission that the Morrison government seems hell-bent on introducing.
The Ruddock Review showed very little impact on Christians from the introduction of marriage equality.
Indeed, religious freedom is not an issue in Australia.
However, religious privilege is a huge concern.
Granting equal rights to a minority does not confer any privilege.
Righting a wrong is not an act of charity.
In a democracy, it is an obligation.
The so-called ‘quiet majority’
Recently, extremists intent on undermining marriage equality via ‘religious freedoms’ legislation, began to term themselves a ‘quiet majority’.
They are not.
They are a very noisy minority.
We need to hear the voices of the actual majority of Christians in this country — those who support the diversity of our community and freedom and equality for all.
Unfortunately, it seems many believe this issue will just go away or never reach a legislative stage.
However, we see the debate so far hijacked by extremists with little concept of tolerance.
I am concerned, the Religious Discrimination Commission, if introduced, will develop a “them and us” mentality.
That will encourage a divisive and fear-mongering society.
I hear constantly about the need to protect the rights of Christians, but who will protect the rights of LGBTIQ people?
Furthermore, will this proposed freedom apply to all religions, or only one?
Already I see social media postings from people determined any legislation should encompass only their own religion and not others, specifically Islam.
Freedom and equality in a first world country like Australia should apply to everyone, not just one select group.
No one disputes the need for religious freedom.
However, some appear to believe they bear no responsibility for the consequences of their words and actions on the LGBTIQ community and individuals.
Discrimination against LGBTIQ people
There is concern that religious freedoms legislation would see LGBTIQ teachers retrenched for no reason but their sexuality.
Likewise, schools could reject students who failed to conform.
Additionally, some agitate for the right of Christian business owners to retrench workers over their sexuality and refuse goods and services to customers for like reason.
Welfare groups, aged care providers and hospitals run by religious organisations, although beneficiaries of taxpayer funding, could retrench workers and refuse service.
Religious individuals and groups would enjoy the right to promote conversation that increases homophobic and transphobic violence.
There is no evidence Christians suffer violence for their faith in Australia as LGBTIQ Australians do for their sexuality or identity.
What happens if the government grants this religious privilege?
If a Christian doctor can refuse treatment to an LGBTIQ patient, can an LGBTIQ doctor do the same in reverse out of spite.
That is not the Australia I grew up in and love.
Ours is one of the most tolerant and good spirited countries in the world today.
Why would we seek to import intolerance, divisiveness and destructive hatred?
We fear for the emotional and physical harm visited on LGBTIQ people should the government proceed with this legislation.
Shelley Argent goes back to Canberra
If you want a voice, I am going to Canberra at the end of July. I can take everyone’s letter and ensure the Coalition Leaders receive them.
REMEMBER – Inaction will ensure inequality
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