Senior Pastor at Metropolitan Community Church, Reverend Dale Yardy, gave Star Observer his view of the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill.

I’ve always been gay; I’ve always been religious. Turns out, neither of them was just a phase, they ended up being two core components of who I am that have helped shape my life. I have often said I had to come out of two closets; firstly, I had to come out gay to my religious friends, and secondly, I had to come out religious to my gay friends.

Waiting for people’s reactions always felt to me a bit like jumping out of a plane and just hoping the parachute would open. Sometimes it did, and their love and acceptance of me helped me to soar, at other times their reactions would have just the opposite effect. They would be discriminatory in nature, and ruthless in their condemnation of who I was, all fuelled by the religious beliefs they held.

What troubles me about the Federal Government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill is not that religion wants protection from discrimination. That is a reasonable expectation, and I will support the protection of all religions to be free from discrimination on the basis of their beliefs, provided those beliefs don’t oppress the dignity, rights and humanity of others.

Because, I don’t have the right to start oppressing people for wearing a linen and wool blend sweater (no matter how hideous it is) just because my religion (Leviticus 19) endorses it. Parents don’t get the right to have their son stoned for eating or drinking too much just because Deuteronomy 21 says it’s okay.

I don’t get to own a slave just because it’s permissible in Ephesians 6; and women should not have to remain silent in church, even though 1 Corinthians 14 prohibits them from speaking.

Jesus continually rebuked the religious leaders of his time for their allegiance to the laws that oppressed others, and constantly upheld the law of love as the ultimate expression of religious freedom.

GLBTQI+ people are just one of many groups of Australians who will be impacted if this Bill should go forward. Everyone deserves a fair go, equality, and to be treated with dignity and respect. This proposed Bill threatens that.

Religion should not be given power and privilege over our inherent Australian rights to safe and enduring employment; our access to basic healthcare; our right to enjoy a meal at a pub without being harassed for what we wear or who we are having dinner with; our right to walk home without fear of someone following us who means us harm.

GLBTQI+ people are well acquainted with discrimination because it has happened to us for most of our lives, often at the hands either directly or indirectly of the unchecked religious freedoms that currently abound in this country. This proposed Bill will stifle the diverse and vibrant heart of Australia by helping to preserve a culture of intimidation and fear.

Religion at its best is a beautiful thing. It champions the human spirit; it doesn’t seek to crush it. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a deeply religious man and a staunch GLBTQI ally, once said:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

This proposed Bill will step on your basic rights as an Australian. No matter who you are, it will impact you at some point down the road, which is why we cannot stay neutral.

Please visit www.equalityaustralia.org to find out how you can help.

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