My letter was edited for space, so here is the full thing.
‘Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father,’ says the letter attributed to James, the brother of Jesus, ‘is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world’.
No mention is made of the nationality, religion, or sexuality of the orphans and widows, only of their need. Denis Dragovic and Barney Zwartz are correct that protecting religious freedom won’t lead to discrimination – because the adherents of pure and undefiled religions do not want the right to discriminate.
To speak only of the church to which I belong, in early 2016 Uniting Aged Care proudly became the first faith-based aged care provider to be awarded a rainbow tick for its commitment to serving the LGBTIQ community. Earlier this year UnitingCare’s national director affirmed its non-discriminatory policy in employment, recruitment, and service to the Ruddock review into religious freedoms.
The submission of the national Assembly of the Uniting Church to that same review said: ’Fundamental to the Uniting Church’s approach to its own religious freedoms is that such freedoms are never to be self-serving, but rather ought to be directed toward the Church’s continuing commitment to seeking human flourishing and wholeness within a healthy, diverse society’.
At a time when far-right extremists claim that discrimination against Muslims is not racist because Islam is not a race there is no doubt that religious belief should be a protected attribute under anti-discrimination legislation. Sadly the arguments made by secular commentators too often focus on the ‘right’ of religious people to discriminate against others, rather than our right to be protected from discrimination.
Was that hypothetically homophobic Christian baker to be found in Australia, they would undoubtedly be following the advice of the Apostle Paul and baking same-sex couples the most beautiful wedding cakes, thus heaping burning coals on their so-called ‘enemies’ heads.