PFLAG’s Shelley Argent warns government on ‘religious freedom’ laws


Shelley Argent PFLAG religious freedom
Photo: Facebook

PFLAG national spokesperson Shelley Argent wants Prime Minister Scott Morrison to reassure the LGBTIQ community they won’t be worse off under any new “religious freedom” laws.

“The right-wing of the government decided Christians’ rights were at risk after marriage equality was achieved,” Argent said.

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“The government held a religious review due to concerns about the rights of Christians.

“[Philip] Ruddock, a conservative and former Attorney-General who reworded the Marriage Act to read as ‘man and woman’ to exclude same-sex couples, was chairperson of the review.

“After much delay, the Ruddock review showed there was very little of concern to Christians.”

But Argent said many LGBTIQ people are worried new laws would give businesses and services permission to discriminate based on religious beliefs.

Religious bodies run many aged care providers and other welfare groups and services, she said.

Argent said LGBTIQ people also worry about the “promotion of hate speech.”

“Christians may not believe their words are harmful, or may not care,” she said.

“But the impact can be devastating for LGBTIQ people and their loved ones.”

Argent said nobody should ever use any freedom, including freedom of speech, “as a tool for abuse”.

“The ratio of Christians suffering poor mental health or suicide from hate speech is minimal,” she said.

“However, the negative impact of hate speech, homophobia and transphobia against LGBTIQ people is extremely high.”

Conservatives call for broader ‘religious freedom’ laws

It comes after some Coalition MPs called for stronger “religious freedom” laws after the party’s election result.

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Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce said he wanted religious beliefs to be exempt from employment contracts after the Israel Folau saga.

Also, Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, a high-profile marriage equality opponent, said she wanted to see a broader Religious Freedom Act.

But Attorney-General Christian Porter said the government would introduce a “basic” religious discrimination bill, as flagged last year.

He told ABC Radio last week the proposed legislation would “follow the basic architecture of discrimination bills” by defining religion as a “protected attribute.”

No new discrimination

However PFLAG’s Shelley Argent warned Prime Minister Scott Morrison the government must ensure LGBTIQ people don’t face additional discrimination through any new laws.

“Mr Morrison and his team must do as he promised and govern for all people, which surely must include the LGBTIQ people,” she said.

“They pay taxes, contribute to society and vote.”

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