Secularism would stifle faith if Australian Labor has its way

Secularism would stifle faith if Australian Labor has its way, by Amanda Stoker, a Liberal National Party senator for Queensland.

Last week’s debate in parliament, as well as much of the related media coverage, betrayed a profound lack of understanding about the meaning of religious freedom in a free and pluralistic society. Two misconceptions stand out.

The first is that the essence of last week’s clash was about whether faith-based schools should have a right to discriminate against pupils on the basis of their sexuality alone. Despite plenty of grandstanding to the contrary, there is clear consensus inside and outside parliament that gay students should not be singled out for different treatment. No Christian school — or any school so far identified — has sought to expel a student for being gay.

What is at stake, however, is the far weightier issue of whether faith-based schools should be free to teach religious doctrines that conflict with progressive values that have the backing of anti-discrimination statutes. …

Should a faith-based school, a theological college or seminary, acting on the basis of its religious beliefs, be allowed to refuse a gender transitioning student to run a club or publish posters or web pages at the institution advocating for gender-fluid ideology?

Should a faith-based school be allowed to refuse a male student who wishes to identify as female but has yet to undergo gender reassignment surgery the use of female toilets and changing rooms?

And should a religious institution freely be able to articulate its teachings on sexuality, human relationships and marriage?

These scenarios are not hyperbole but precisely the type of conduct that could see faith-based schools hauled before anti-discrimination tribunals if the ALP’s amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act are passed, according to legal scholar Mark Sneddon.

Yet Labor senator Penny Wong, her party and large sections of the media insist this kind of intrusion into the operation of faith-based schools has no real bearing on religious freedom. This goes to the second misconception that has corrupted this debate: that religious freedom can meaningfully coexist with laws that weaponise subjective offence.

Foundational human rights such as freedom of religion differ from goals of social justice enshrined in legislation. The former is a birthright of a liberal democracy: one of the rights that’s essential to being a free person in a free society. It is non-negotiable because it is insep­arable from freedom of speech, thought and conscience. These rights are fundamental because without them the underlying basis of liberal democracy falls away. Like freedom of speech, true freedom of religion protects faith regardless of its content. After all, if religious teachings are forced to abide by the secular morality of the state, it is no longer free but ­licensed.

To be sure, religious freedom in practice may be subject to reasonable limits in the interests of public safety and preserving hu­man dignity. But if freedom of religion is to be anything more than a mealy-mouthed platitude, it has to mean the freedom to express faith through worship and teaching. …

This gives the lie to any pretence that Labor’s amendments provide an accommodation between religious freedom and anti-discrimination law. In truth, Labor’s position represents an elevation of secular morality over religious doctrine without precedent in Australia’s history. …

Labor’s bill … prioritises the right of a person to express his or her sexuality as dominant to and overriding of the right to faith, and the right of parents to raise their children according to their own beliefs.

The far left have a long history of telling other people how to live their lives. Goes with their collectivist outlook, presumably. The totalitarian streak runs strongly in them. They currently like identity politics, where which group you were born into is more important to them than your actions or your character.

People who prefer to get on with their own lives instead of meddling in other’s, those with a more libertarian outlook, and those who view the individual as the responsible unit in society, find Labor’s position on religion abhorrent.

hat-tip Stephen Neil