In the Media

Church’s push to exclude disabled FAMILY Voice

Tory Shepherd Adelaide Advertiser

A national church group based in Adelaide – wants to be allowed to discriminate against people with disabilities because mental illnesses might disturb their “sacred space”.

Along with a range of other religious organisations, Family Voice says anti-discrimination laws impinge on their freedom of religion. Family Voice describes itself as “a national Christian voice – promoting true family values for the benefit of all Australians”.

In a submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry into freedom of belief, Family Voice argues that anti-discrimination laws “represent a direct assault on religious freedom” because existing religious exemptions do not go far enough.

The group wants broader exemptions so they can more freely discriminate against people with disabilities, gay and transgender people, and on the basis of age. “For very good reasons, a religion may not wish to engage a person who has a mental illness and displays disturbed behaviour,” the submission argues.

“Such behaviour would adversely affect a church service, which is sacred in nature.”

Dignity Party MLC Kelly Vincent said the call was “cruel and hypocritical”, and perpetuating a “dangerous stereotype”. Most people with or without a mental illness are capable of peaceful and productive lives, especially with the right support, she said.

“For some, engagement in religious and spiritual activities might actually play an important role in achieving and maintaining positive mental health. To deny that on the grounds of a sweeping misconception is not only legally unsound, it’s cruel and hypocritical.”

Family Voice also argues that homosexual behaviour is immoral, and sex changes are “delusional”. The Canberra inquiry’s submissions include one from the Holy See saying Christians are increasingly persecuted both violently and in the name of political correctness.

Pope Francis refers to the “polite persecution of Christians”, the submission says, claiming political correctness considers Christian faith and morals to be hostile and offensive.

In another submission, the Australian Family Association agrees that anti-discrimination laws are undermining traditional religious values. The Australian Christians have called for a “Religious Freedom Impact Statement”, for all legislation, saying freedom of belief is “under attack” from “totalitarian forces” such as gay rights advocacy.

In its response, the Attorney-General’s department noted that all Australians were free to choose, express and practise their religion within the framework of the law. “Australia is home to a diversity of faiths, united by acceptance, mutual respect,” the department says.