The same-sex marriage debate in Australia has exposed a sectarian politics reminiscent of the skirmishes between Protestants and Catholics over freedom of conscience that plagued Australia up to World War II.
People may disagree on the justice or injustice of fining bakers for not baking same-sex wedding cakes, forcing adoption agencies to shut down for catering only to mother-father clients, or forcing people to answer to anti-discrimination and human rights tribunals for non-abusive, non-incendiary speech, but no one can deny that this is happening, as experience in the US, Canada, Britain and Australia shows.
And it is this climate of soft persecution that makes Smith’s bill an incredibly irresponsible piece of legislation. …
The “discrimination” excuse is selectively applied:
Rejection of the religious liberty amendments as a mere licence to discriminate reveals a worrying misunderstanding of some necessary conditions of a free society.
For example, how long will a political party exist without the right to discriminate in favour of potential candidates and staffers who adhere to the principles of that party? The same goes for a trade union, Get Up!, a church, a charity, and a school.
Lobby groups, the media, political parties, businesses, educational institutions, and charities make up civil society — that free, voluntary sphere that seeks to have a positive influence on government and other people’s lives. Without the right to discriminate in employment this sphere disappears and the social needs that it meets are taken up by the state. Liberals should be especially concerned with this.
The point should be clear: some rights to discriminate are valid because they are anchored to the preservation of social goods and ideals that constitute a free society. When business owners exercise conscientious objections to participating in same-sex marriages either through catering or photographing the event, they are not restricting the liberties of anyone else, and no one is being forced to use their services. …
Freedom versus PC:
If freedom leads to plurality of opinions, then freedom is the greatest enemy of any movement that demands uniformity of opinion on questions of sexuality and gender.
The same-sex marriage debate and its aftermath around the English-speaking world showed that such a movement is afoot, even in Australia. A good first step to imposing this uniformity is to have passed Smith’s bill unamended. The next step is to start attacking institutions and individuals who represent traditional views or who defend those who do.
Welcome, then, to the new sectarianism.
hat-tip Stephen Neil