Christian lobbyists have taken aim at homosexuality, anti-discrimination laws and any proposed charter of rights in early submissions to a federal inquiry into Australia’s freedom of religion.
Sydney-based ministry FamilyVoice Australia claimed Christians were not currently free to practise their beliefs due to legal restrictions and cited a Tribunal decision against Wesley Mission for refusing homosexual couples as foster carers.
Recognition of freedom of religion implies recognition that some faith communities may explicitly reject some sexual behaviour as immoral, it wrote, objecting to the Human Rights Commission’s discussion paper on sexual diversity and religious freedom.
The questions assume a stance in favour of the view that all varieties of sexuality are morally equivalent and valid expressions of human nature. This view is not shared by the majority of world religions or of religious believers.
The Anglican Church joined other Christian lobbyists in defending the right to sack employees for not adhering to religious tenets, including non-religious positions in schools.
For Christian organisations, all action is done -˜to the glory of God’. This makes it impossible to distinguish between specifically religious activity and other activities, the Anglican submission said.
Recent job advertisements for a network manager at a Queensland Christian school seen by Sydney Star Observer required applicants be a committed Christian even though such a requirement is illegal under Queensland anti-discrimination law because the job does not involve religion.
The Anglican submission called for a compromise where religious organisations be given full exemption from anti-discrimination employment law provided it is used in good faith, is not arbitrary, and be consistently applied.
However, Tasmanian Anti-Discimination Commissioner Sarah Bolt objected strongly to the current religious exemptions in her state, saying they do not conflict with freedom of religion.
It is difficult to see how holding the same religious belief as a school should be required to teach Maths, English or History, for example.
If it is a matter of a religious organisation providing services, education or employment, the question of a person’s sexual orientation is completely irrelevant. There is no reason to question what a person’s sexuality is if they are applying for a job, are a client or a customer.
She recommended government grants and funding for services be tied to religious organisations complying with federal and state anti-discrimination laws.
Faith communities can be inclusive of people of diverse sexualities by treating them with respect and in the same way as everyone else. In this regard, education and dialogue between different groups is important and [I] strongly support such initiatives.
: The inquiry will accept submissions until 31 January. More information can be found at the
Commission website www.humanrights.gov.au.