Religious Freedom: It Isn’t What You Think

pic: United Church of Christ

The Australian Christian Lobby and their fellow travellers, such as Margaret, have a false idea of the nature of religious freedom.

A modern liberal-democratic society cannot have legal opt-outs in respect of human rights and freedoms. In the name of fairness, if nothing else, everyone must be equal before the law, without exemptions. Such a society – for example, Australia – can accept divergent opinions, including those motivated by belief, but cannot tolerate non-compliance to the rule of law.

An unavoidable side-effect is the self-exclusion of some people from some areas of public life. For example, someone with an objection to abortion will be unable to work in female sexual health and maternity. Someone who seeks to rule everyone else, regardless of belief, by the tenets of their personal religion, will be unable to stand for public office.

No Shariah Law, and no Christian Law either.

But such people are still free to form their own communities, within which they can live by their own rules, much as Orthodox Jewish, or Exclusive Brethren communities do. What they cannot do is seek to impose their standards on anyone outside those communities.

This is how a modern democracy can accommodate the Lyle Sheltons and Margaret Courts of Australia, and still respect their beliefs.

Inspired by, and based on, the review of The Benedict Option in the New Statesman:

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)