A crowd of around three thousand people packed Sydney’s Taylor Square today to show their opposition to state exemptions for religious groups from anti-discrimination laws, and the Morrison Government’s plans for federal “religious freedom” legislation.
Protesters heard from speakers including NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong, just.equal’s Rodney Croome, Gosford Anglican priest Father Rod Bower, non-gendered person and trans activist Norrie, CAAH member and teacher Moira, and a student from a religious high school who is at risk of expulsion so the Star Observer will not name them.
Father Rod told the crowd that those pushing for the right to discriminate and so-called “religious freedom” laws did not represent the views of the majority of Christians in Australia.
“When you endured that dreadful plebiscite the majority of Christians supported you. They said yes! Yes! Yes!” he said, to cheers.
“It seems we are going to have a debate about so-called religious freedom. But you need to know, and especially vulnerable young LGBTIQA people need to know, that the Australian Christian Lobby does not represent Christians in this land.”
Father Rod said it was vital that Christians who support equality and non-discrimination are heard in this debate.
“We need to raise our voices, we need to give an alternative narrative. We need to stand together. And Christian people will pledge ourselves to stand with you,” Father Rod said.
“We need to change the conversation around this because religious freedom is not about discrimination. To be truly religiously free is to be free from the need to discriminate.”
A high school student from a religious private school told the crowd that she feared the Morrison Government’s plans for federal religious freedom legislation would duplicate anti-discrimination exemptions for religious groups that currently exist in most states and territories.
“There can be no uncertainty around this,” she told the crowd, “This law exists to give religious institutions the legal right to discriminate.”
“This is part of a sweeping backlash from the Evangelical Right against the amazing win of the marriage equality campaign in this country. This successful campaign saw thousands of students protesting in the streets. A [federal] religious exemptions bill would be a slap in the face to that nationwide effort.”
“This represents the power of a bigoted minority to push an entire group of people into second class citizenry against the wishes of 80 percent of the population who don’t think that religious institutions should have this discriminatory right.”
Organisers were impressed by the size of the event, which was as large as some of the snap actions for marriage equality seen in recent years.
Following the speeches, police closed one side of Oxford Street and protesters marched down the road before dispersing at Hyde Park.