40 Years On & Nothing Has Changed


Angel Of Grief : Cathy Baird

In his submission to the “expert panel” into religious freedom, chaired by Philip Ruddock, Graeme Hanigan argues that the harm caused by religious exemptions far outweighs any injury to ‘religious susceptibilities’ that may result from their removal.

New deadline: You have until February 14 to make a submission: see below for details.

It was some forty years ago that I first observed religiously motivated discrimination against a young gay man. He was the younger brother of a close friend, and he committed suicide because the Catholic Church, which he loved, rejected him as an abomination.

No family should have to experience the death of a child through suicide.

Forty years on and absolutely nothing has changed.

The idea of religiously motivated prejudice is derived from ancient texts of unknown authorship and it has no place in a modern society.

The mulish proponents of religiously motivated discrimination declare that it represents their ‘religious freedom’. Their active resistance to change verges on hysteria combined with extreme displays of hatred, as seen during the prelude to the Marriage Equality opinion poll.

Is it little wonder that suicide rates of those targeted by this irrational intolerance are so high?

Same-sex attracted Australians have up to 14x higher rates of suicide attempts than their heterosexual peers. Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care (2000); Suicide Prevention Australia (2009)

Those participating in religiously motivated discrimination protect themselves from guilt by declaring, often and loudly, that homosexuality is a choice. Another of their indulged myths for which they can provide no supporting evidence.

I suggest that if it was a simply a matter of choice, suicide by same-sex attracted Australians would not be so prevalent.

And yet despite the damage it does to human lives, we find religiously motivated discrimination protected under Australia Law as the ‘Religious Susceptibilities Exception.’

As described by The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 (Cth): its application to religious freedom and the right to non-discrimination in employment; It permits “a distinction, exclusion or preference in connection with employment as a member of the staff of an institution that is conducted in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion or creed, being a distinction, exclusion or preference made in good faith in order to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion or that creed”.

I ask the question, ‘Which is the greater harm?’ ‘injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion or that creed’ or the ongoing unnecessary loss of young and innocent lives as a result of religiously motivated discrimination.

There is only one correct answer to this question. Adherents of religions or creeds rarely commit suicide as a result of ‘injury to their religious susceptibilities’, the greater harm is clearly the continued protection of religiously motivated discrimination as a ‘religious freedom’ under Australian Law.

Australia is a tolerant, inclusive nation which enjoys religious freedom, which also includes freedom from religion.

I argue that any law that enables the privilege of discrimination based on religion, which is detrimental to human lives, has no place in Australian society.

Graeme Hanigan

Click the link to MAKE YOUR SUBMISSION: you only have until Feb 14

Other submissions: Dismantling Privilege , Further submission notes , Equality & Religion

Ruddock has suggested that the inquiry may well keep submissions secret: if you would like yours published here, email the stirrer

Update: submissions will be published if permission is given