Having been roundly trounced in the postal survey on same-sex marriage equality, the right wing has a new angle to pursue its reactionary social agenda: demands for religious freedom and a hysterical campaign of gender policing, especially in schools. The Ruddock review into religious freedom was established as a concession to the ultra-conservative faction in the Liberal Party. Having delivered its report in May to deposed Prime Minister Turnbull, the issue remains a ticking time bomb inside the government which, despite claims to be united behind its new leader, continues to tear itself apart.
It is no secret the new Prime Minister is a Pentecostal Christian. Barely a week after being sworn in, Scott Morrison infuriated the LGBTIQ community by refusing to denounce gay conversion therapy. Next came a bigoted Tweet opposing training programs for teachers to support transgender students. Morrison’s deeply offensive opinion that we “do not need gender whispers in our schools” was demolished on national television by Evie, a 13-year-old transgender child. Evie revealed she’d been forced into conversion therapy and traumatised while attending a Christian school. The vanquished contender for the Liberal leadership, Peter Dutton, shares Morrison’s views and has argued for the right of religious schools to sack gay teachers.
Religious leaders are as out of touch with community views as the politicians. While church leaders campaigned against marriage equality, faith-based communities defied them, with a majority voting Yes. Australia is an increasingly secular society, the last census recording just over half the population as Christians. Amongst young people in the 18 – 34 age group, there’s a near-even split between Christians and those who actively identify as having no religion. There’s also a diversity of faiths practiced by the shrinking number who hold religious beliefs.
The Ruddock review received more than 16,500 submissions, many from those erroneously equating religious freedom with the right to discriminate. Anti-discrimination legislation currently provides exemptions to religious institutions, such as schools and charities, which allow them to discriminate. These exemptions must be immediately scrapped.
Socialists do not oppose the right to hold religious beliefs. Lenin, the great Russian revolutionary, explained that “the state must not concern itself with religion…. Everyone must be absolutely free to profess whatever religion he likes, or to profess no religion.” This must also include the right to be free from discrimination for being religious or secular. In 2006, a divorced principal was sacked from a Catholic school for remarrying, and in 2012 a pregnant teacher was sacked from a Christian school for being unmarried. Similarly, some religious folks face unfair discrimination on the job. A survey of Muslims in Sydney found a staggering 62% reporting prejudice in the workplace or when seeking employment.
Socialists advocate the separation of church and state. This means religious influence must be removed from public institutions, and the state must stop funding religious organisations. Someone needs to tell that to the unrepresentative crew in Canberra!
Want to know more? Read Science versus religion: The Marxist view