A SOUTH Australian church is under fire for announcing its intention to ban gay and trans people, as well as people with disabilities, from its congregation.
According to The Advertiser, the Adelaide-based FamilyVoice church group has said people with illnesses or disabilities could disturb the church’s “sacred space”.
“For very good reasons, a religion may not wish to engage a person who has a mental illness and displays disturbed behaviour,” the church wrote in a submission to a federal parliament enquiry into freedom of belief.
“Such behaviour would adversely affect a church service, which is sacred in nature.”
FamilyVoice argued that anti-discrimination laws “represent a direct assault on religious freedom”, and that current religious exemptions do not go far enough.
The submission by the church, which has a history of attacking gay and trans rights, has drawn criticism.
Australia’s Dignity Party MLC Kelly Vincent called the comments “cruel and hypocritical”, and perpetuating “a dangerous stereotype”.
“For some, engagement in religious and spiritual activities might actually play an important role in achieving and maintaining positive mental health,” said Vincent.
“To deny that on the grounds of a sweeping misconception is not only legally unsound, it’s cruel and hypocritical.
“FamilyVoice also argues that homosexual behaviour is immoral, and sex changes are delusional”.
Australians have taken to social media to express outrage at the church’s comments.
“FamilyVoice, I will let my daughter express myself whenever she wants, wherever she wants and however she wants. You have the problem,” tweeted one.
“Because Jesus would surely ban sick people from his services!” wrote another.
FamilyVoice, I will let my daughter express herself whenever she wants, wherever she wants and however she wants. You have the problem… pic.twitter.com/Kl62wpA0QZ
— Clayton Goode (@clayton_goode) June 13, 2017
— Purple Wyrm (@Purple_Wyrm) June 13, 2017
In Jesus’ name? Maybe FamilyVoice needs some collective mirror-time.
— Gregory Dodwell (@gregreedee) June 13, 2017
In response to the submission, the Attorney-General’s department said all Australians are free to choose, express and practise their religion within the framework of the law.
“Australia is home to a diversity of faiths, united by acceptance, mutual respect and a commitment to democratic traditions,” the department said.