Sunday, December 26, 2010

Religion and Equality Butt Head Again In Australia

Once again, there is a conflict between religious organizations and equality rights (in the form of non-discrimination laws) in Australia. The question today is whether a religious organization that receives government funding is allowed to openly discriminate against a homosexual couple because of the organizations religious beliefs. The Herald Sun has the details...

Church groups are free to discriminate against homosexuals after a landmark judgment in which a tribunal ruled religious charities are allowed to ban gay foster parents.
The ruling, made in the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal, has been hailed by the Catholic Church but has outraged civil libertarians, who are demanding religions no longer be exempt from anti-discrimination laws if they receive public money, reported The Daily Telegraph.
The Council of Civil Liberties suggested more children might end up in orphanages because church-based service providers could now knock back couples who did not conform to their beliefs.
Even the tribunal itself, whose judgment came down in favour of the ban, said it was effectively bound to reach the decision because of the very broad exemptions in the Anti-Discrimination Act relating to religious groups.
The decision marks the end of a seven-year legal battle for a gay couple who attempted to become foster carers through Wesley Mission Australia but were knocked back because their lifestyle was not in keeping with the beliefs and values of Wesleyanism, a Methodist order of the Uniting Church.And, it went as far as suggesting that Parliament may wish to revise those laws.
The ADT initially awarded the couple $10,000 and ordered the charity to change its practices so it did not discriminate but an appeals panel set aside that decision and ordered the tribunal to reconsider the matter.
The tribunal then said it had little choice but to find that the discrimination was "in conformity" with the church's doctrine because the test in the law "is singularly undemanding".

Council of Civil Liberties president Cameron Murphy said churches who received taxpayers money to provide services for the state -as was increasingly the case -should no longer be exempt from discrimination laws.
"It's outrageous," he said. "If a non-religious organisation tried to do this they would be in breach of the law.
"If they want to run a foster care agency they ought to be looking after the best interests of the child, not trying to push their religion on the community.
     Many times, we as the gay community are called out by the religious community as people who are demanding "special rights". Though there is much dispute over this accusation by the religious communities, they cannot make any claim that that is bad, since they themselves are granted "special rights" under the guise of religious freedom to bypass the law.

      I take issue with the concept that a government funded organization is able to discriminate against a significant portion of the population. By doing so, even when there are anti-discrimination laws, government is putting its stamp of approval upon discrimination.

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