National Secular Lobby Submission

The recommendations to the Ruddock review: complete submission at the end of this post

Equality before the Law:  

  • That no anti-discrimination exemptions are granted to any businesses in the wedding industry that seek the right to discriminate against same-sex couples by limiting or denying retail services.
  • That no law is made that makes all civil celebrants exempt from marrying same-sex couples.
  • That Freedom of Religion is subordinate to Freedom of Expression and Freedom from Discrimination.
    Frederick Clarkson: Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right
    HuffPost 14.1.16 Rev Dr John Dorhauer The Religious Right and The Erosion of Religious Liberty
  • That legislation be introduced to protect all citizens from proselytising or coercion in government-funded religious institutions; including education, health, aged care, welfare, employment and charities.
  • That the national chaplaincy program in public schools be terminated — the High Court having found twice that federal funding is unconstitutional, and the NSCP does not meet the needs of children.
  • That exemptions for religious organisations, to hire staff based exclusively on faith, be rescinded, where: (a) funding is provided by government, for public services, and (b) the duties are wholly secular in nature.
  • That religious canon law, like sharia law, is clearly stated to be subordinate to civil law.
  • That no exemptions from anti-discrimination laws are given to any child adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples, on the basis of that characteristic.
  • That including the cost of halal — or other religious certifications — into the food prices for general consumers be made illegal.
  • That religion-based non-therapeutic medical procedures — such as male circumcision or female genital mutilation — be banned.

Religion in Politics:  

  • That the tax loophole where for-profit religious businesses associated with a religion can avoid taxation — based on “the advancement of religion” — be closed, where there is no evidence of public benefit.
  • That common law blasphemy, in all states and territories except Qld and WA, be repealed.
  • That no religious vilification law is introduced on the basis of religious freedom, and which may limit the ‘freedom of expression’ of any citizen to question the veracity or historical origins of any religious belief.
  • That Standing Orders be amended to stop the Speaker saying prayers in parliament.
  • That parliament redress Australia’s image as a “Soft Theocracy” and reduce current exemptions for religion which already discriminate against the secular community.
  • That a clause be added to the Constitution to make it more clear for the High Court that s.116 was established to represent a clear separation between Church and State.
  • That the Australian Bureau of Statistics amend the “closed” Census question on Religious Affiliation — “What is the person’s religion?” — to the “open” question; “Does the person practice a religion?”
  • That religiously biased terminology in all government and legal documentation be removed.

Separation of Church and State: 

  • That mandatory reporting of all child abuse be legislated for personnel in all religious institutions.
  • That mandatory selection of recognised “secular” advocates be introduced for all government panels, boards and committees — where religious leaders are selected for their perceived “moral” perspective.
  • That parliament not become a platform for religious freedom crusades, as advocated by the Treasurer.
  • That the Review rejects claims by religious groups that religions lack “freedom”.
  • That the government make representations to the Vatican for voluntary celibacy of the priesthood.
  • That the anachronistic “confidentiality of the confessional” be removed, in order to protect children.

Education: Science literacy and Critical Thinking:  

  • That public funds be withheld from private religious schools that actively teach creationism.
  • That government funding to religious schools and hospitals be subject to strict compliance with existing anti-discrimination laws, together with an undertaking to abstain from proselytising.
  • That government funding be prioritised for all schools teaching “religion-neutral” secular education.
  • That single-faith religious schools promote and teach “philosophical ethics” and “critical thinking”.
  • That the government prohibit the fundamentalist religious indoctrination of children in home-schooling.

Religious Freedom and Children:  

  • That consent to indoctrinate children into religion, under ICCPR Article 18 (4), is not introduced into Australian law as it contravenes Article 14 (1) of the Convention on Rights of the Child.  Item 2.9 refers.
  • That government address the Royal Commission’s Final Report where elements of Catholicism have significantly damaged children by creating an environment for grooming, abuse and sexual exploitation.
  • That children not be permitted to wear overt religious clothing and icons when attending publicly funded   schools or institutions.
  • That religions, not taxpayers, pay compensation to the victims of sexual, emotional, and physical child abuse — where the offences occurred under their control.

Gender Equality:  

  • That taxpayer funds be withheld for religious hospitals that refuse to provide abortions, or to refer patients to an alternate provider of such services.
  • That segregated seating in universities and other places, based on religious doctrine, be made illegal.
  • That remaining abortion laws be repealed and that legislative measure be strengthened to ensure better protection for women wanting an abortion, for the clinicians involved, and for the clinics and their staff.
  • That religious taxi drivers who ban women from the front seat, or giving directions, must be sanctioned.
  • That the government review laws that allow polygamy, where marriages occurred outside Australia.

Dying with Dignity:  

  • That people holding particular religious views must be held accountable when they actively discriminate against others who wish to make end of life choices — this is particularly vital in medical institutions.
  • That there is a need for Dying with Dignity laws across Australia, now that Victoria has legalised VE.

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)