Freedom for the Religious Right?

Since the election there seems to be a groundswell among coalition MPs in support of a bill guaranteeing religious freedom.

The groundswell, such as it is, appears to be inspired by two specific incidents: the Israel Folau case; and (on Malcolm Turnbull’s watch) the gay marriage plebiscite.

However, the call for religious freedom rights, in both cases, is inspired by a fallacy. Neither the Israel Folau incident, nor the gay marriage plebiscite, did anything to endanger religious freedom. What we are seeing is a deliberate attempt to characterise enlightened social policy as an attack on religion, when in fact, it is simply an expression of communal priority.

There is no attack on religion. There is however an attack on outdated opinions which conflict with rights the community at large has determined to be more important than the right of religions to judge and exclude.

In other words, you can practise any religion you like in Australia, but that doesn’t give you the right to judge and exclude others on the basis of their sexuality. And why on earth, in 2019, should anyone want to?

* * *

But to my mind, the bigger question is why would the religious right be deliberately misconstruing the issues of marriage equality or the legality of same sex relationships as attacks on religious freedom?

These people aren’t (entirely) idiots, so I am going to assume they know that the right of all people to get married is not an attack on religious freedom. How is person A’s right to get married an attack on person B’s right to practise religion? It’s not.

I am going to assume they know that the ARU cancelling Israel Folau’s contract for being in breach of its fundamental terms is in no way an attack on his freedom to practise his religion. How is person A’s right to their own sexuality an attack on person B’s right to practise religion? It’s not.

How is the right of any person A to get married, or express their sexuality, in any way an attack on the rights of completely different persons B who have never even met or (maybe) even lived in the same state?

What the religious right are effectively saying is this: the rights of other Australians to marry whoever they want, or have sex with whoever they want, is somehow an attack on their right to practise religion, even though it does not affect them personally in any way at all.

They are also making this claim despite the fact that the majority have decided that marital equality is important and that sexual orientation is up to the individual. Making law on the basis of majority will is fundamental to a democratic society.

So the religious right are also saying: they want the parliament to enshrine their right to judge and exclude despite the fact that the majority have determined the rights of all Australians to marry or express their sexuality to be inalienable.

Obviously they can’t just state it as baldly as that so they are hiding their claim behind a façade of victimisation. They are suggesting the rights of others are an attack on their rights – even though they are not remotely affected by the rights of others. So therefore, it’s only fair that their right to go on judging and excluding be enshrined in legislation, notwithstanding the democratically determined rights of others.

Why is no-one calling out Israel Folau or the religious right on this?

There is absolutely no basis in fact or law for the asserted need for religious freedom which is, in reality, an attempt to enshrine the right of the minority to discriminate against life choices determined to be entirely legitimate by the majority.

Nice try religious right, but surely Australians aren’t so stupid as to give in to your dinosaur bigotry.

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