Religious Freedom Review
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Parliament House, Canberra

In order to understand the impact of further religious exemptions to anti-discrimination law, it's necessary to first understand public perceptions of religion. I argue that in light of this, such proposed changes will have very important and dangerous repercussions.


The majority of Australian people have no hatred for LGBT people and they've come to see the small, but extremely vocal, group of homophobic religious people as extremists. But more than that, they see these extremists, and the hate they promote, as being toxic to religion, worsening the church's already tainted reputation, and accelerating its decline.

Some of the things contributing to this are:

And I know this might not initially seem relevant, but are you aware of how most Australians see this Review? Their belief that this is biased and mere pretence is damaging to both the rule of law and to religion. Those suspicions seemed to be confirmed by:

  1. the name of the "Religious Freedom Review" (religion already has more freedom than any other section of society),

  2. the appointment of noted homophobe Philip Ruddock to head it, instead of an impartial investigator,

  3. the initial intent to make its work secret.

It is widely believed that this Review will simply enable a law letting religious people do unjust things without legal consequence. This cynicism, whether justified or not, is unhealthy for our society and further damages religion.



All the things mentioned above are accelerating the decline of religion.

In the 21st Century, secular society has risen far above the immorality of a Bible which excused slavery and actively promoted racism and xenophobia. We now understand that gay people are merely people who wish to do their part to help in wider society, whereas the Bible enables the lie that gay people are bad.

Society benefits greatly from gay people in ways that are generally not recognised. Despite their small numbers they are overrepresented in creative professions such as scientist, writer, artist, musician, filmmaker, technologist, and even as religious leaders. As we see in nature, same-sex attraction is entirely natural, with more than 300 species now documented as having same-sex-attracted members — it would appear to be universal. Some species exist entirely as females (for example the New Mexico Whiptail lizard), with female-to-female sex triggering ovulation. Some other species change sex under certain circumstances. One thing that is truly unnatural is for creatures to attack fellows for same-sex-attraction.

Legitimising bigotry and attacks on LGBTI people is extremely dangerous and unhealthy for our society. Have you noticed the wave of mass murders and torture of gay people, and people merely suspected of being gay, in Chechnya at the moment, and the beginning of it in Indonesia? That hysteria is driven by religious bigotry. Do you want to tear our society apart like that?

The poison spreads

But the most disturbing aspect of giving religious people more power to be hateful to gays is how it will explode in unexpected ways. The bigotry and hate won't magically stop at LGBTI people. It will poison everything. It will infuse new life into old feuds:

It will unlock a Pandora's box of animosity that has the potential to shred our society. This is exactly why we have anti-discrimination laws in the first place.

Here we are in the 21st Century, having built one of the most peaceful societies on Earth, and you would risk that accomplishment by breathing new life into old hatreds? This Review is a terrible mistake; it should never have been opened. It, and the appalling postal vote on marriage equality before it, have already precipitated new hate and violence against gays and transexuals. Even before doing anything, you have blood on your hands, but if you give people the key to neutralising anti-discrimination law, nobody knows how much more blood — including religious people's blood — you will cause to be spilled.

If you have any social and religious responsibility, you will recommend that no new religious discrimination should be enabled, and further, that current legally enabled religious discrimination should be removed, not only because it is repugnant and counterproductive for society, but because it is morally corrosive to the church itself.

If new laws are made to favor religious discrimination, it will provoke a popular backlash. It will certainly result in the new discrimination being overturned, but Australians, having their attention now focussed on the church's injustices, will likely bring religious organisations into line with anti-discrimination law, removing all religious ability to discriminate against others. Also, there are strong signs it will be a powerful incitement for taxing religious organisations, the rationale being that when the church interferes in politics, it has discarded its special status and thus should pay tax. Such calls are already getting louder in reaction to this Review being formed.

Even if you do award religious extremists extra "rights" to propagate the spiritual sickness of hate and bigotry, they have already lost in the most meaningful way. When next you wonder why religion is declining so quickly, you'll be able to gaze upon the answer in the mirror. Religious intolerance and extremism is killing all religion.

Please, don't poke the sleeping lion. It is dangerous to everybody.

Miriam English
QLD, Australia