Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Friday, 8 May 2020

St. Patrick's College statement standing by its decision to revoke honours given to former student Cardinal George Arthur Pell


St Patrick’s College Statement on Royal Commission findings – May 7, 2020


Edmund Rice Education Australia, the St Patrick’s College Board, the Old Collegians Association and the executive of St Patrick’s College acknowledge today’s release of the full and unredacted findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse – Case Study 28 and Case Study 35.

The important work of the Royal Commission provided the opportunity for many victims and survivors of abuse to have their stories told and their voices listened to, and for systemic historic failings across many organisations to be exposed.

It also provided the opportunity for reconciliation and for ongoing solidarity around the journey towards the hope of healing. St Patrick’s College remains unwaveringly committed to this course.

In 2019, the College revoked honours which it had previously bestowed upon Cardinal George Pell. This included renaming a building and removing his status as a Legend of the Old Collegians Association. St Patrick’s College stands by these decisions.
At all times the College’s highest priority is the welfare and wellbeing of our students. They remain at the very centre and heart of all we do.


Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Two posts featuring Scott Morrison disappeared from Bible Society Australia & Vision Christian Radio websites in March 2020


A similar article to the below one quietly disappeared from a Bible Society Australia website, Eternity News, along with a video.


PM Joins COVID-19 Prayer Effort
Tuesday, March 31st, 2020


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has joined Christian leaders and believers online to pray for Australia as we battle the COVID-19 outbreak.

The prayer session was coordinated by the Australian Prayer Network, the Canberra Declaration and Pastor Margaret Court.

The Toowoomba Regional Prayer Network reports, the Prime Minister prayed through two Scriptures: Psalm 34:17-19 and Isaiah 58:11-12.

The first Scripture speaks of the Lord hearing the cry of the righteous and delivering them from trouble and the second tells of the Lord’s guidance and restoration from the ruins.

More than 600 people took part in the national Zoom call over a period of 25 hours with Pastor Margaret Court overseeing the final hour of prayer.

The Prime Minister’s participation was reported by Molly Joshi, national representative of the Toowoomba Regional Prayer Network.

She says it was the church at its finest, ministering together without walls.

Photo credit: Kristy Robinson / Commonwealth of Australia [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]

This article has also disappeared from view.


The reason these articles and a video were removed?  Perhaps Morrison decided his prayer had only been meant to be heard by the 600 people taking part in that prayer session or he may have thought his Christian prayer might not be well received by every voter who heard it.

However, little actually disappears completely from the Internet and this YouTube video of the prayer session was posted by Queensland Parents For Secular State Schools on 31 March 2020.



https://youtu.be/khANQLVfttc

Morrison begins to quote the bible at 2:45 minutes and offers his personal prayer at 3:40 minutes.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Quote of the Week


"Love does no harm to a neighbour,” instructs the Bible, “therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.” The god invoked to oversee the religious discrimination bill avers such radical lefty chat. Instead, Voltaire’s suggestion that “If god [does] not exist, it would be necessary to invent him” describes the Liberals’ preferred “religious” entity with some prescience. It’s a small and petty, vengeful creature that squats in medical trauma and old bigotry, a deity conjured of conservative political resentment, and convenience." [Columnist Vanessa "Van" Badham, writing in The Guardian on 12 February 2020 on the subject of the Morrison Government's Religious Freedom Bills]

Friday, 8 November 2019

Religious belief is rated the least important attribute that defines Australians' sense of who they are


Australia Talks is an Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) project that was created in collaboration with Vox Pop Labs's data scientists and social scientists. A panel of local academics also guided its creation and the University of Melbourne is an academic partner.

What stands out clearly in this online survey is that personal political belief is what principally drives a sense of identity for the majority of Australians who participated over nine days in July 2019.

The importance of political belief was closely followed by nationality.

Gender (with a marked difference between male & female scoring) and language were ranked third and fourth in order of importance to a sense of self.

Religion came in at a solid last with only 0.192 of a point difference between how males and females scored its low importance with regard to their own identity.
According to ABC News on 6 November 2019; Religious leaders were distrusted by a full 70 per cent of the population, with 35 per cent saying they did not trust them "at all" and Only 15 per cent of respondents thought the country would be better off if more people were religious.

While 60 per cent of the July 2019 respondents; would prefer that people keep their religious views to themselves.

The 29 April 2019 published results of a Vox Pop Labs Vote Compass survey revealed that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison only scored 3.45 out of 10 when it came to "trustworthiness".

Given this former advertising executive increasingly publicly positions himself as a religious political leader and is quite vocal concerning his Pentecostal faith, one wonders if there is now a class of person who actually ranks lower in the general public's esteem than politicians, pollsters and advertising executives did in the September 2019 IPSOS survey 

Friday, 11 October 2019

Seems no-one is really happy with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's religious freedom bills


Armed with what appeared to be a sense of personal righteousness, in August 2019 Australian Prime Minister, Liberal MP for Cook and self-proclaimed man willing to "burn" for Australia, Scott John Morrison, released a draft Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 along with the Religious Discrimination (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2019 and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Freedom of Religion) Bill 2019.

Not everyone is happy with the contents of these bills.

For the institutional religions the bills do not go far enough. While for legal academics, industry bodies and human rights agencies these bills go too far. 

This is a selection of views publicly expressed.......

The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 October 2019: 

Australia's Catholic Church says the federal government's draft religious discrimination laws are "problematic" and require major changes to avoid unwanted "lawfare" and ensure religious bodies keep their ability to hire and fire at will. 

The demands from the country's largest church increase the pressure on Attorney-General Christian Porter to go back to the drawing board on a process that started with 2017's religious freedom review by Philip Ruddock. 

In particular, the Catholic Church wants special rights for religious schools to extend to religious hospitals and aged-care facilities, as well as an explicit override of state anti-discrimination laws. 

And despite the special rules for schools, the peak Catholic school body complained the draft law still "does not provide our schools with the flexibility they require" to ensure staff and students adhere to the tenets of their faith. 

The head of the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC), former Labor senator Jacinta Collins, said Australia's 1750 Catholic schools must retain their legal right to hire and fire - and accept students - based on how well a person fit into "the ethos" of the school. That included whether someone was baptised as Catholic, or whether they had undermined the tenets of the faith by publicly entering a same-sex relationship or marriage. 

In a 27-page submission to the government on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli said the laws "require some significant amendment" to properly assist people of faith. 

He stressed religious hospitals and aged-care facilities "must" be included as religious bodies and enjoy the same hiring and firing rights as religious schools, with the Catholic Church the largest non-government provider of healthcare services in Australia. 

The Age, 4 October 2019: 

Religious believers could be free to publicly shame rape survivors under the federal government’s proposed “religious freedom” laws, Victoria’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner has warned. 

Commissioner Kristen Hilton also noted an unmarried woman would be powerless to seek redress if a doctor told her she was “sinful and dirty” for requesting contraception on the basis of a religious conviction. 

The commissioner has warned federal Attorney-General Christian Porter that his proposed new laws, which the government says are designed to protect the rights of people of faith to express their religious views, risks trampling on the human rights of other Australians…… 

Ms Hilton writes in her submission that the religious freedom laws might allow a worker in a health service to go on social media in their own time and denigrate the homosexuality of sexual abuse survivors. 

Another concern for the commissioner is the potential under the proposed laws that a private business or religious group could demand the right to provide sexual health education in government schools and tell children that homosexuality is an illness and that the use of contraceptives is a sin. 

A clause in the draft bill stating that expressions of belief should be protected from anti-discrimination laws could have the effect, Ms Hilton wrote, of "emboldening some people to characterise survivors of sexual assault or rape as being blame-worthy for not being sufficiently modest or chaste."….. 

“But religious expression needs to be balanced against other rights, such as the right to be free from discrimination,” the Commissioner wrote. 

“This bill does not get the balance right. 

“By privileging religious expression, the rights of other people are diminished."  

The Guardian, 4 October 2019: 

Legal academics and the Diversity Council have warned that the Coalition’s proposed religious discrimination bill is unworkable for employers and will thwart policies designed to create safe and inclusive workplaces. 

In a joint submission, the academics warn the bill’s proposed ban on workplace policies regulating religious speech would leave employers in the invidious position of having a duty under occupational health and safety laws to create safe workplaces, but being restrained in their ability to prevent bullying. 

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has warned the bill does not properly define religion, meaning that Indigenous spirituality could be excluded by the common law definition while “esoteric or emerging religions” are protected. 

The draft bill would prevent employers from having codes of conduct that ban religious speech in the workplace or on social media, on the grounds that such a ban would indirectly discriminate on the grounds of religion. The provision exempts large employers only if they can show they would suffer “unjustifiable financial hardship” without the rule. 

The academics’ submission – coordinated by Liam Elphick and Alice Taylor and signed by Professors Beth Gaze, Simon Rice and Margaret Thornton – noted the effect of the section is that religious speech “would have greater protection from employer intervention than any other statement or expression”. 

For example, an employer with a code of conduct banning employees from publicly engaging in controversial political debates would not be able to impose the rule on a religious employee who wanted to oppose marriage equality. A gay employee, however, would be restricted from publicly supporting it. 

“There are also workability issues in how an employer can factually prove that a conduct rule is ‘necessary’ to avoid unjustifiable financial hardship, considering the very high standard required to prove necessity,” the academics said. 

The academics warned the clause exempting religious speech from federal, state and territory discrimination protections would create an “unworkable situation for businesses in regard to employment”. 

“Work health and safety laws impose a positive duty on employers to prevent bullying, and discrimination laws require businesses to provide their services free from discrimination, yet [the exemption] would authorise bullying and discrimination,” they wrote. 

The Australian, 1 October 2019: 

The Anglican Church says the Morrison government’s draft religious discrimination bill contains problems “so serious” it cannot support it in its current form, warning that some groups like Anglicare and Anglican Youthworks may not be protected. 

In its submission to the government, the Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney outlined seven issues to be addressed and called on Attorney-General Christian Porter to expedite the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into laws that impact on religious freedoms. 

Under clause 10, religious bodies “may act in accordance with their faith” and do not discriminate against a person if their conduct may reasonably be regarded as in accordance with their doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings. A religious body that “engages solely or primarily in commercial activities” is excluded. 

Bishop Stead said the explanatory memorandum made it clear religious hospitals and religious aged-care providers would not be considered religious bodies. 

Anglican Youthworks, which charges fees to run “Christian Outdoor Education” programs, could also be disqualified because it engaged in commercial activity.While commending the bill, Bishop Stead said the clause might have a perverse effect. 

The Guardian, 30 September 2019: 

Key provisions of the religious discrimination bill may be unconstitutional because they allow medical practitioners to refuse treatment, and privilege statements of religious belief, an academic has warned. 

Luke Beck, a constitutional and religious freedom expert at Monash University, warned the Coalition’s exposure draft bill may be incompatible with international law and therefore not supported by the external affairs power in the constitution. 

The submission echoes concerns from the Australian Human Rights Commission and Public Interest Advocacy Centre that the bill will licence discriminatory statements about race, sexual orientation and disability on the grounds of religion, and that it privileges religion over other rights. 

What is the religious discrimination bill and what will it do? Read more The bill has been criticised for overriding state and federal discrimination law, including section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which prohibits speech that offends, insults or humiliates people based on race. 

Beck argued the bill provided a “bigger sword” to religious people’s statements of belief than those of non-religious people. Statements of belief can be made “on any topic whatsoever” provided they “may reasonably be regarded” as in accordance with a person’s religious beliefs. 

By contrast, statements of non-belief must deal only with the topic of religion and “arise directly” from the fact the person does not hold a religious belief, the associate professor said.  

Freedom For Faith, undated submission:

The overwhelming concern of faith-based organisations across the country with whom we have spoken is about the effect of the Bill on their religious mission, with particular reference to their staffing policies, but also in relation to other issues. 

Staffing policies in faith-based institutions 

At a meeting in Sydney with a range of faith leaders a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister promised that the law would not take faith groups backwards in terms of protection of religious freedom. The difficulty is that this Bill does, in relation to staffing of faith-based organisations. The issues are existential ones for many faith-based organisations. If the issues are not resolved, this may lead us to conclude that the Bill is better not being enacted. That said, we have every confidence that the Attorney-General will be able to sort the drafting problems out. 

Currently, at least in some States, it is lawful for faith-based organisations to appoint, or prefer to appoint, adherents of the faith without breaching anti-discrimination laws. So for example, a Catholic school may prefer practising Catholic staff, or at least practising members of other Christian denominations. A Jewish school may prefer Jewish staff, and so on. This is no different to a political party which may choose or prefer staff who support the policies of the party, or an environmental group that wants staff who will believe in its mission. Organisations that exist for a particular purpose or are associated, for example, with a particular ethnic group, need to be able to have staffing policies that reflect their purpose and identity. 

This is not a right to discriminate. It is a right to select. And it is just plain common sense. A Church’s childcare centre is not like the Commonwealth Bank or a shop selling bedroom furniture. The childcare centre is part of the mission and ministry of the Church. If it could not insist on employing Christian staff, or at least having a critical mass of Christian staff, it would cease to be a Christian ministry. 

Many faith-based organisations have a strong preference for staff who are practising adherents to the faith, in order to maintain their religious identity and culture. However, larger organisations typically do not make it an inherent requirement of working there, because they need the flexibility to meet their staffing needs without drawing from too narrow a pool......


Neither of these examples cover situations where there is merely a preference to employ practising Catholics or practising Christians more generally. Furthermore, even if a Catholic school or other charity did have a policy of only employing Catholic staff, it would only be lawful if this could reasonably be regarded as in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs and teachings of Catholicism. That may be a difficult test to satisfy in the eyes of a court. The court may find it hard to see how the Catholic school’s preference in terms of employment may reasonably be regarded as being in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of the religion. The school, however, may take the view that it is a necessary implication of their doctrines that they want to maintain a Catholic ethos by having a “critical mass” of believing staff. Whether or not this policy does flow from religious doctrines – it is really about the purpose of having a Catholic school – it would be best if the legislation made it clear that such a policy was not unlawful.

Christian Schools Australia, undated:

In conjunction with the release of this package of Bills the Government narrowed the Term of Reference of the referral to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) of the other aspect of the response to the Religious Freedom Review of interest to Christian schools and deferred the timetable for this review. 

While the substance of the ALRC review remains the same it will now do so in the light of the proposed legislation circulated last week. Rather than releasing a Discussion Paper next week it will now release a discussion paper “in early 2020” with the reporting deadline to Government pushed back from April 2020 to 12 December 2020. Although claimed to “reduce confusion for stakeholders” the amended timeline will require the Religious Discrimination Bill and associated legislation to be finalised BEFORE the discussion paper on proposed amendment to the existing amendments are released. 

CSA is concerned that this will not allow appropriate consultation on the complete package of reforms affecting Christian and other faith-based schools. 

We have raised this with the Attorney-General’s office and will continue to advocate for a more coordinated response to both aspects of the whole package.

Australian Human Rights Commission, 27 September 2019: 

However, the Commission is concerned that, in other respects, the Bill would provide protection to religious belief or activity at the expense of other rights. The Bill also includes a number of unique provisions that have no counterpart in other anti-discrimination laws and appear to be designed to address high-profile individual cases. As a matter of principle, the Commission considers that this is not good legislative practice. As a matter of substance, the Commission considers that this may lead to unintended and undesirable consequences. 

The Commission’s main concerns regarding the Bill are as follows. 

First, the scope of the Bill is overly broad in defining who may be a victim of religious discrimination and, arguably, too narrow in defining who may be found to have engaged in religious discrimination. 

Unlike all other Commonwealth discrimination laws, which focus on the rights of natural persons (that is, humans) to be free from discrimination, the Bill provides that claims of religious discrimination may be made by corporations including religious institutions, religious schools, religious charities and religious businesses. This is a significant departure from domestic and international human rights laws which protect only the rights of natural persons. 

At the same time, the Bill provides that ‘religious bodies’—including religious schools, religious charities and other religious bodies—are entirely exempt from engaging in religious discrimination if the discrimination is in good faith and in accordance with their religious doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings. This is a wide exemption that undercuts protections against religious discrimination, particularly in the areas of employment and the provision of goods and services, and requires further close examination. 

Secondly, the Bill provides that ‘statements of belief’ that would otherwise contravene Commonwealth, State or Territory anti-discrimination laws are exempt from the operation of those laws. Discriminatory statements of belief, of the kind described in clause 41 of the Bill, whether they amount to racial discrimination, sex discrimination or discrimination on any other ground prohibited by law, will no longer be unlawful. The Commission considers that this overriding of all other Australian discrimination laws is not warranted, sets a concerning precedent, and is inconsistent with the stated objects of the Bill, which recognise the indivisibility and universality of human rights. Instead, this provision seeks to favour one right over all others. 

Thirdly, the Commission is concerned about two deeming provisions that affect the assessment of whether codes of conduct imposed by large employers on their employees, and rules dealing with conscientious objections by medical practitioners, will be considered to be reasonable. Unlike all other Commonwealth discrimination laws, the Bill prejudges the assessment of reasonableness by deeming some specific kinds of conduct not to be reasonable. This means that, in those cases, not all of the potentially relevant circumstances will be taken into account. 

Fourthly, those deeming provisions also have an impact on the ability of employers to decide who they employ. The Bill provides that employers may not decide that compliance with a code of conduct that extends to conduct outside work hours, or with rules dealing with conscientious objection, are an inherent requirement of employment, if they would be unreasonable under clause 8. This means, for example, that the narrow deeming provisions about what is reasonable for organisations with an annual revenue of more than $50 million also has an impact on the decisions by those employers about the conditions they may set with respect to employment. 

These four issues, and a range of others relating to all three Religious Freedom Bills, are dealt with in more detail in the body of the Commission’s submission. In revising the Bill, attention needs to be paid not only to its text, but also to the eventual Explanatory Memorandum. At several points the current Notes provide examples and explanations that suggest a very limited scope for religious organisations to retain their ethos and identity, and conversely an expansive scope for suppression of free speech. It is difficult to reconcile these Notes, at various points, with government policy as expressed by the Prime Minister and Attorney-General. 

Friday, 4 October 2019

The Ugly Face of Climate Change Denialism on NSW North Coast: "your world's future is in the hands of God, not in the predictions of a little girl and false prophets"


Coffs Harbour Christian Community School, newsletter, 26 September 2019, p.1:


The Daily Examiner, 3 October 2019, p.1:

The Dean of Grafton’s Christ Church Cathedral has spoken out against a Coffs Harbour school principal who used a school newsletter to slam students for their recent climate strike.
In a column released last Thursday, Coffs Harbour Christian Community School principal Rodney Lynn dismissed the climate change protest as “doomsday waffle talk” and took aim at the face of the global climate strike, Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg.
In response, Christ Church Cathedral’s Very Reverend Gregory Jenks said the piece was typical of the agenda of conservative right-wing Christians, and said it was inappropriate commentary from someone involved in the education system.....
Rev Jenks said he believed the views of Mr Lynn were not good for the planet and not good for children.
“I think it betrays a stunning ignorance of thinking on climate science, and (Mr Lynn) is not in the same league to be up against thousands of climate scientists,” Rev Jenks said.....
Rev Jenks, who is an adjunct senior lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University, said Mr Lynn’s use of scripture was “incredibly naive and fundamentalist”.
“What’s sad is this isn’t a personal agenda, this is typical of the agenda of conservative right-wing Christians articulating a ultra-conservative expression of Christianity and it’s nasty,” he said.
ABC News, 1 October 2019:
Trevor Crawford has two children at the school and said he was "absolutely disgusted" when he read the column in the school newsletter.

He said the column was "over the top", especially Mr Lynn's indirect comments about Ms Thunberg.

"To turn around and use her condition of Asperger's as a mental problem and that must be a reason why she shouldn't be believed, it's wrong," he said.

An estimated 6 million marchers participated in the global climate strikes, led by Ms Thunberg, on September 20 and 27 this year.

Liisa Rusanen from the Coffs Coast Climate Action Group also criticised Mr Lynn, saying "everything Greta Thunberg says is thoroughly backed by science".

"I'm surprised that a school principal doesn't recognise that.".....

The newsletter was published a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned against causing children "needless anxiety" about climate change.

In 2004, Mr Lynn apologised after distributing leaflets describing state schools as "seed plots of future immorality, infidelity and lawlessness".

The school's chairman declined to comment, and Mr Lynn has been contacted for comment.

Daily Mail, headline, 1 October 2019:

White, middle-aged Christian private school principal slams climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, 16, as a 'little girl with mental problems' - and urges students not to believe her 'doomsday waffle talk'

BACKGROUND

Coffs Harbour City Council holds its next ordinary monthly meeting on 10 October 2019. Media reports this week suggest that councillors may be considering declaring a climate emergency, thereby joining 55 other Australian local governments who have declared to date. These include Clarence Valley, Lismore, Byron Bay and Tweed councils in the Norther Rivers region.

Students and supporters in the Coffs Habour area participated in the 20 September 2019 global School Strike 4 Climate. Coffs Harbour students also participated in two other school strike protests in 2018 & early 2019.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Quote of the Week


"...now, as in the past, they [religious leaders] assume the right to impose their faith on others. Far from being denied a "voice" in the public square, they have a megaphone. What irks them is that fewer of us are listening." [Freelance journalist Julie Szego, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 September 2019]

Friday, 16 August 2019

Galaxy Poll showed 2 out of 3 people believe religious organisations and individuals should not be allowed to discriminate against those who don’t hold the same views


Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Media Release 13 August 2019: 


 Religious Discrimination – What Australia Really Thinks 

The results of a Galaxy Poll, commissioned by Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG+) have been released today. 

Mr Morrison needs to consider the opinion of the “Quiet Australians” before he forges ahead with a Religious Discrimination Act, Commission or Commissioner. 

The issues of religious freedom for some are in reality discrimination for others. 

Very few are against religious freedom. But as the Poll shows many are against discrimination. Additionally, Christians in Australia are not persecuted but the legislation is being put in place just as a precaution because marriage equality became a reality in this country in 2017. 

Of those who were polled 51% identified as being religious and 49% identified as having no religion

The Poll shows 63% do not agree that the religious organisations should have the right to discriminate against LGBTIQ people. The same percentage applied when asked if religious organisations should have the right to discriminate against unmarried mothers, divorcees and couples in de facto relationships. (33% identified as Christian)

The Poll also showed that 62% believe religious organisations and individuals should not be discriminated against just because of their faith. 

Additionally, the Poll showed that 68% (2 out of 3) people believe, religious organisations and individuals should not be allowed to discriminate against those who don’t hold the same views. 

The Poll showed that 48% Christians do not agree with discrimination of LGBTIQ people and others who do not comply with the religious organisations ethos, while 13% do agree with discrimination.


Ends

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

A law firm specialising in freedom of religion, speech and conscience lays out the far-right's wish list concerning religious freedom legislation?


Make no mistake, what is in play here is an ideologically-driven push back against the 2017 amendment to the Marriage Act 1961 and, an attempt to regain the power to legally discriminate against the LGBTI community.

All three examples given by the Australian Christian Lobby in the following article involves individuals who have allegedly either actively discriminated against a transgender person or made statements to the effect that homosexuality was heretical, blasphemous and evil.

OUT in Perth, 8 August 2019:

The head of the Human Rights Law Alliance has laid out what he expects the government will allow in its religious focused anti-discrimination legislation.

In a recent presentation in Perth for the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), John Steenhof the Managing Director of the organisation, listed a range of examples where he felt people’s religious freedom had been compromised.

One of the examples Steenhof notes is the case of a pharmacists who he says ended up resigning from their job because they felt an equal opportunity commission was going to force them to fill the prescriptions of people who are transgender. 

“Just yesterday I was speaking to a pharmacist who’s quit her job because she’s been threatened with a discrimination claim for refusing a female hormones prescription at her pharmacy for a biological male.” Steenhof said. 

The Human Rights Law Alliance is a non-profit legal organisation that is closely aligned with the Australian Christian Lobby. Steenhof’s predecessor Martyn Iles is now the head of the ACL. 

In a presentation at the ACL’s ‘Not Ashamed’ state conference Steenhof said there are a number of threats to religious freedom in Australia including disciplinary boards, workplace contracts, vague code of conducts and discrimination claims.

Steenhof also cited the example of Bernard Gaynor, a conservative commentator who supports public displays of homosexuality being made illegal. Steenhof said Gaynor had been targeted through New South Wales vilification laws despite him living in Queensland, and the case of Tasmanian Archbishop Julian Porteous.

In his presentation Steenhof said it appeared the government was not interested in bringing in a religious freedom law, something he said Christians would welcome, but could be dangerous as it may “leave the door open towards the progression of towards a bill of rights act.” 

Steenhof said while he had not seen the legislation the government was proposing he was concerned that a religious discrimination act could be problematic if it was not well worded. 

“We want robust and clear definition of religious freedom and how that translates into action that will be protected. 

We want protection for religious organisations, Christians not only individually, but in community…Christian schools, Christian charities, all of these organisation require protections.” 

“We need protections for charities that would hold to man-woman marriage, we need rights of parents – that’s a massive issue that needs to be address and projections.

We need to address the low bar on vilification laws which allows people to pursue Christians when they feel just a little bit hurt or offended.” Steenhof said. 

In July the National LGBTI Health Alliance (the Alliance), the national peak health organisation in Australia for organisations and individuals that provide health-related programs, services and research focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people (LGBTI) called for stakeholders to commit to a “to do no harm” pledge during the discussions regarding the introduction of a federal Religious Discrimination Act. 

They argue that evidence shows that the structural discrimination enshrined in our nation’s laws exacerbate the impacts of minority stress on LGBTI people, including increased anxiety, depression, suicidality and substance use. 

Nicky Bath, Executive Director said that calls for religious freedom should not be used a licence to discriminate against LGBTI people. 

“The Alliance recognises that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and is an essential part of a liberal, democratic society. We support measures that protect people from discrimination on the basis of their religious beliefs or activity, or their secular beliefs or activity. However, legislation for religious freedom should not be used as a license to discriminate against LGBTI people.” Bath said. 

Recent research has highlighted how legislative processes and public debates relating to the rights of stigmatised, minority populations adversely effects our communities’ already poorer mental health, with an increase in psychological distress being evident among LGBTI people during the same-sex marriage postal survey. 

“We are calling upon all Members of Parliament, media, religious organisations and individuals to engage in a respectful debate and reporting around legislating for a Religious Discrimination Act to ensure that the right to practice one’s faith and the right to be free from discrimination are appropriately balanced in a coherent legal framework and do not further marginalise or harm our communities’ health and wellbeing”, Bath said. 

“We also call on the Morrison Government to consult with LGBTI people, organisations and communities to hear directly how this legislation and the ongoing public debates impact negatively on our mental and physical health.” 

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia also says there is no need for pharmacists to be given an exemption from discrimination laws, and treating people equally is a big part of their code of conduct. 

“PSA recognises that equality is a health issue, and is a right for all Australians, irrespective of age, culture, religion, sexuality or gender identity.” a spokesperson told OUTinPerth. 

“This is reflected in PSA’s Code of Ethics for Pharmacists, which states that pharmacists have an obligation to respect the dignity and autonomy of the patient, recognise and respect patients’ diversity, cultural knowledge and skills, gender, beliefs, values, characteristics and lived experience – and not discriminate on any grounds, and provide care in a compassionate, professional, timely, and culturally safe and responsive manner.”