To: The Hon Julia Gillard MP, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, The Hon Mark Dreyfus MP, The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
What's God got to do with it? Remove religions' right to discriminate.
Dear Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers
You are to be commended for consolidating and expanding the breadth of Australia's Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination legislation. Without doubt this is an important step in making Australia a fairer place for all.
However, in order to do real justice to this progressive legislative, we believe the Government must also take this opportunity to remove the 'right' of religious groups to discriminate without justification against those they deem to 'offend their religious sensibilities'. This 'right' is afforded to no other group and the grounds on which this 'right' is demanded by and provided to such groups are unclear.
While we defend the right of individuals to hold and practise their own beliefs, that right should not extend to the potential harm of others. As both history and current evidence will attest, there is no doubt that institutionalised discrimination of any kind can be very harmful indeed.
Nor should that 'right' to discriminate be allowable at the taxpayers' expense. If religious organisations wish to provide private services only to and for like-minded people, let them. But don't force the majority of Australians who don't share their views to fund their 'good works'. Services expecting to receive significant amounts of government money must also expect to comply fully with the law of the land.
Apart from being a rights issue, this is also a health and workforce issue. We face a shortage of doctors, nurses and teachers in this country but you are sending a loud message that those professionals, despite their qualifications and personal beliefs, 'need not apply' to the many religious-based hospitals and schools providing services funded by tax dollars, should they belong to a sexual minority, be an unmarried parent or live in a de facto relationship. Although aged care is somehow excluded from these exemptions, you are also sending a message that vulnerable elderly people from sexual minorities in need of care in faith-based services better stay firmly in the closet.
Consecutive studies of sexual minority youth done by Latrobe University's Australian Centre for Sex, Health and Society have found that while much has been done to counteract homophobic abuse in Australia in the twelve years between the first Writing Themselves In report in 1998 and WTi3 in 2010, homophobic abuse and violence towards young people has not diminished. The also demonstrated strong links between homophobic abuse and feeling unsafe, excessive drug use, poor school outcomes, self harm, suicide attempts and all poor mental health indicators.
Allowing health and education services the right to actively and legally discriminate against these young people not only sends the wrong message to other service users and Australian society at large about the lesser value to Australia of these people; it is damaging and destroying the lives of young people who would otherwise become productive members of Australian society.
We ask you to debate this exemption clause carefully within the Labor Party before bringing the revised legislation before Parliament. We ask you to amend the proposed legislation to allow religious organisations to apply for exemptions to the Act on a case-by-case basis, as other organisations may do, so their intentions will be made clear to the Australian public.
We thank you for your consideration of this petition.
Why is this important?
Julia Gillard has allegedly assured Australian Christian Lobby managing director, Jim Wallace that ''she has no intention of restricting freedom of religion'' when it comes to religious groups' legal rights to discriminate in hiring and firing in the consolidated Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/antigay-rights-to-stay-20130115-2crma.html#ixzz2IJDj45vA
Labor senator, Doug Cameron says the issue has not been discussed within the Caucus of the Labor Party. He says we should follow the UK model, "...if any of these organisations, churches, education groups or hospitals are taking government money, then they should have no right to discriminate against fellow Australians."
How it will be delivered
I will email the signatures to each of the addressees or deliver in person where possible.