Let’s call ‘religious exemptions’ what they really are: extraordinary unjustified privileges | The Stirrer

by: Doug Pollard

March 28, 2013

Call me naive, if you like, but pretty well everyone can agree that the world works best when everyone is working to the same agreed set of rules. That, surely, is what ‘equal before the law’ means, after all. That regardless of how rich, well-connected or well-known you may be, you have to obey the same rules as everyone else.

Some people think the rules shouldn’t apply to them, but the law does sometimes catch up with people eventually: just look at what’s happening in NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption right now.

Sometimes society decides that some people need special privileges exempting them from certain laws, so that they can do their jobs properly.

There are laws which provide legal protection for journalists and other professionals who do not want to reveal details about confidential discussions they have with sources or clients. These mean that in certain strictly limited circumstances, people like me are allowed to do things that would be illegal for the ordinary citizen. We are allowed to withhold important information from the authorities.

[There’s an article on Civil Liberties Australia website which outlines the arguments for and against such special treatments, and outlines why  journalists and others believe we need them, if you’re interested.]

Having immunity from laws that apply to everyone is is a very special privilege and responsibility. It’s only granted in very narrow and specific instances, where any harm that may result from, say,  letting me keep silent, is outweighed by the damage that would be caused if I were forced to speak out. There is no blanket privilege to keep information to myself in all circumstances, just because I’m a journo.

How do the ‘religious exemptions’ to anti-discrimination law stack up against this test? Remember, these grant all religious and religious owned/run organisations and businesses the very great privilege of total exemption from anti-discrimination law. They include:

  • Employment agencies
  • Housing agencies
  • Ages care homes, and in home aged care services
  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Adoption agencies
  • Universities, colleges and schools
  • Major food manufacturer, Sanitarium

They can refuse to provide goods, services and employment to anyone who does not meet their own self-imposed moral standards. These may include:

  • People of other faiths (so Christians can refuse to help or employ Muslims, and vice versa)
  • Unmarried cohabiting couples
  • Single mothers
  • Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people

They can do this, even though they are being paid to provide these services by state and federal government: your taxes. Taxes, I might add, from which these organisations are largely exempt.

The question then is this. Is the harm that is done to the people who are refused help, support and employment greater than the harm that would done to the people owning and running these businesses, if they had to work with people they didn’t approve of? The answer, surely, is that the harm done to sick, vulnerable, weak and poor people clearly outweighs any harm to the providers and their staff.

Their special religious privilege, their right to have their prejudices enshrined in law, their right to treat some people as being worth less than others, cannot be justified. Imagine if the same standards were applied to political beliefs: you could have Labor run schools refusing to educate the children of Liberals, or Liberal nursing home owners turning away elderly Greens. It’s incredibly anti-social, divisive, and entrenches prejudice, and makes no sense.

The Gillard government has already dropped plans to overhaul all anti-discrimination law – with one exception. They will amend the Sex Discrimination Act to outlaw discrimination against people because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex.

Unless you are one of those ‘religious’ organisations and businesses. For you, it’s bigotry as usual.

The Australian Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan is asking the A-G to at least  drop the religious exemptions in respect of aged care. After all, in some areas, ALL the aged-care services are religious run. Susan will be with me on The Rainbow Report tonight.  Please join us.

These special privileges should be withdrawn across the board. The only exemptions should be for the actual practice of the religion, for priests, nuns and their ancillary ritual assistants. No-one else. There’s a petition to the Attorney General at All Out, asking him to remove these religious privileges. Please sign it.

PS The only blanket privilege to keep silent no matter what the consequences is that granted to Catholic priests. They are allowed, in every instance, to withhold information given to them in the confessional. In fact, they are bound by the rules of their own profession never to disclose anything they hear there. You can safely confess multiple murders to a Catholic clergyman: he can’t dob you in, even if to do so would stop you murdering again.


Know The Laws Regarding Online Racism






18C Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin

(Note: the word ‘origin’ can be defined as “a person’s social background or ancestry”. Social background can refer to a person’s adopted religion, especially if born into a country where culture is somewhat dictated by religion)
(1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and
(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.

In every single post published by theantibogan on this website, the comments put forth by the perpetrators of discrimination would almost certainly be found offensive if read by the people belonging to the race/culture/religion they are referring to. Comments found on this website are made almost exclusively because of people’s race, colour and/or national/ethnic origin.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), an act is taken not to be done in private if it:
(a) causes words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated to the public; or
(b) is done in a public place; or
(c) is done in the sight or hearing of people who are in a public place.

All comments used by theantibogan on this website have been pulled from public websites and publicly accessible social media forums including public news feeds and web based groups and organisations. All comments used on this website have been made with the realisation that said comments are viewable by any person of any age, gender or background with access to a computer and the Internet.
Part IIA Prohibition of offensive behaviour based on racial hatred
Section 18D (3) In this section:
public place includes any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, whether express or implied and whether or not a charge is made for admission to the place.

The majority of comments (re)published on this website have come from Facebook forums and publicly accessible groups and news feeds. Any member of the public has access to these comments in their original state by right, and by being republished here, by invitation from another website.

If you come here to criticise the actions of the authors of this blog, keep these laws in mind, and realise that every person that has ever featured in this blog is in direct breach of Australian Federal Law.

Read the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 here.