Deception on freedom of religion key to SSM Yes case

Deception on freedom of religion key to SSM Yes case, by Paul Kelly.

With the Yes case positioned to win the postal plebiscite, it is more important than ever the misleading and false claims of its advocates — that there is no religious issue at stake — be confronted and the ramifications put on the table.

These claims are made by senior Coalition and Labor politicians. Indeed, it seems they think rejection of the religious argument is fundamental to the success of their campaign. This is alarming because it implies the Yes case depends on persuading the public of a false proposition.

The government and parliament, despite years of emotional debate, declined to address the wider religious freedom question. The political class engaged instead in a great pretence: that the only such issue concerned the wedding ceremony and protections in the Marriage Act for clergy and celebrants, an extremely narrow view of religious freedom.

Given legalisation of same-sex marriage means the laws of the state and laws of most religions will be brought into direct conflict over society’s most essential institution, the one certainty is ongoing legal and political trench warfare over the balance between acceptance of the same-sex marriage norm and the scope for freedom of belief and religion. …

Labor has abandoned any interest in addressing the inadequacy of religious protection laws with its embrace of the LGBTI cause. As for the Coalition, the story is the weakness of its conservative caucus. The deeper point is the churches are vulnerable and the politicians know it. …

This battle over rights will continue after same-sex marriage is legislated. In Denmark the Lutheran Church has had its rights restricted. The Swedish PM has said priests should no more be allowed to refuse to marry same-sex couples than medical professionals should be exempt from abortion procedures. The Speaker of the British House of Commons says “proper equal marriage” won’t happen until the churches are compelled to obey by law. Australian Greens formally say they want the religious exemptions in anti-discrimination law to be wound back. Many in the ALP left have the same view.

We are being put on notice. You would have to be politically blind to deny the reality (an option many politicians have deliberately chosen). The post-same-sex marriage battle is already under way. This is because while many people genuinely see same-sex marriage as an issue of non-discrimination, this was never its essence. It is an ideological cause seeking fundamental changes in Western society, laws and norms. It will continue apace after the law is changed.

Marriage equality is an ideology and ideologies, by nature, do not settle for compromise victories. As Benjamin Law says in Quarterly Essay: Moral Panic 101: “It might be stating the obvious but same-sex marriage is far from the final frontier in the battle against homophobia.” The struggle will continue — in schools and in institutions. Law says the two biggest LGBTI issues are Safe Schools and same-sex marriage.

He says Safe Schools is “supposed to discomfort people” by up-ending how we see gender and sexuality. He talks about exploding accepted norms with queer theory, inviting “people to reconsider why anyone should be obliged to identify as female or male at all”. The aim is to introduce Safe Schools across the country and make it compulsory.

The churches will remain a prime target and the fact their protections are weak makes them highly vulnerable once the assault gains momentum.

A commenter on the new totalitarianism:

Religious freedom is critical but I would say that freedom of conscience and speech are more critical. Freedom to teach and raise your children according to your understanding of their best interests is threatened. Freedom to engage in professional life and debate according to conscience is threatened. Freedom to conduct one’s business with an integrity born of conscience is on the brink of destruction.

Will one have to marshall letters from priests for your defense in the tribunal to colour your behaviour as religious? The yes camp has made itself clear that these freedoms will be targeted and are targeted now. The logic and agendas are laid out already as Kelly explains. The precedents are in place. We will very shortly find ourselves in new and far more totalitarian society if we as a nation do not say no now.


I had actually got to the point of deciding to vote yes a few weeks ago. However, I have since decided to vote no for the reasons Paul details here.

While I don’t believe we should necessarily impose our values on anyone the same applies in reverse. A lesson the SSM supporters need to learn. And we should never allow a minority to make their views the norm in such massive societal changing ways.

hat-tip Stephen Neil