By JAMILA RIZVI
Yes, I mean you. You, the ones who are living with your unmarried partners. You, the sexually active people without wedding rings on your fingers. You, who purchase and use contraceptive devices such as (gasp!) condoms or the pill. You who have sexual relations with people of the same gender… I’m talking to all of you.
So it turns out, the Government isn’t terribly troubled if you’re fired from your job for no other reason than the things you do in your private life are ‘against God’.
Newspaper reports today have revealed that a special exemption permitting the Catholic Church and other religious organisations to ignore much of this country’s anti-discrimination laws will remain intact. And who will they be allowed to discriminate against? You.
And this isn’t just about priests, ministers and members of the clergy. It goes much wider than that. So, that lovely receptionist Casey, who works the phones at the front office of your kid’s Catholic Primary School had better keep the fact she’s using IVF to herself. And your cousin Ben, shouldn’t bother going for that job running communications for a religious charitable organisation because they can legally refuse to hire him on the basis that his life partner happens to be a man.
Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Jim Wallace has confirmed that he has had a friendly chat and a cuppa with the Prime Minister several times to discuss this very issue. Now, the power of religious lobby groups like the one Wallace leads may not have the public prominence in Australia that they do in some other countries – but their influence shouldn’t be underestimated.
And according to Wallace (who has proved himself loudly and repeatedly to be no friend of the gay community), the Prime Minister “has no intention of restricting freedom of religion” when it comes to religious groups’ legal rights to discriminate when it comes to employment.
Un-holy mother of science.
That means, amendments to anti-discrimination laws that the Government is planning will not make the much-need change to the status quo. Religious organisations will be allowed to hire and fire people for being gay, or having sex before marriage, or any other such behaviour that could supposedly injure the “religious sensitivities of adherents of that religion”.
Now that’s not to say the the bulk of them will – more and more we’re seeing religious organisations embrace a more tolerant and inclusive position on these issues – but the fact remains that at least one very influential representative group, thinks these laws are absolutely necessary. And why would they be necessary if they weren’t going to be utilised?