Given the increasingly shrill coverage in News Corp Australia publications, in particular The Australian and The Daily Telegraph, I decided to collate my thoughts on the latest battles in the war of attrition that marriage equality law reform had become in Australia, including:
- the recent brouhaha around Coopers Brewery getting caught up in The Bible Society’s shenanigans;
- Peter Dutton going around lecturing businesses to stay out of politics and the marriage equality debate, and focus on their businesses, and ‘knitting‘ instead; and
- the dramas surrounding the board of the Australian ‘Christian’ Lobby’s Lachlan Macquarie Institute.
The Bible Society video
The Bible Society video in question was not part of a ‘respectful debate’.
It was pure, condescending hogwash, a publicity stunt for The Bible Society and the two conservative politicians involved, and an ‘advertisement’ for Coopers.
There is nothing ‘light’ about the fact that after over 18 years with my partner, our relationship still does not have substantive legal recognition, and no one is entitled to tell us how we should react to a video making ‘light’ of that fact …
Make no mistake, the usual suspects pushing the ‘debate’ and ‘conversation’ angle are merely attempting to reset the issue back to over a decade ago.
The reality is that the ‘debate’ has been over for quite a while. This has now become a war of attrition by a minority, although vocal and influential, in opposition, desperately trying to keep the ‘debate’ and ‘conversation’ alive as a delaying and prevention tactic.
In any event, the Bible has been used as a weapon against the LGBTI community by some for a long time now, so it is understandable why so many of us have such little affinity with it.
And no, we are not a powerful lobby oppressing persecuted Christians – if we were so powerful, we wouldn’t still be fighting for basic acceptance and equality under the secular laws of our progressive, liberal democracy.
As for businesses supporting acceptance, diversity, and equality, including marriage equality, bullying has nothing to do with it.
Businesses support acceptance, diversity, and equality, including marriage equality, because it’s good for their businesses – good for innovation, good for efficiency, and good for productivity. Evidence shows that businesses that embrace acceptance, diversity, and equality perform better, and are more profitable and more successful.
Businesses have also come to accept that they have a social responsibility to the communities they serve, and a leadership role given their prominent role in our social structures.
Of course, freedom of speech entitles The Bible Society to release the video in question, and corporations to take part in discussions about public policy and the law. Businesses are active participants in our political system through donating money to political parties, and lobbying on a wide range of issues from workplace relations to taxation, so why should marriage equality be off-limits?
However, freedom of speech is not free of consequences.
Whenever one speaks, whether an individual or an organisations, one must take responsibility for what is said.
In the case of The Bible Society and Coopers, the consequence is that those who disapprove of The Bible Society’s stance on LGBTI people and marriage equality may choose to boycott Coopers due to its association with the project.
Others may choose to take up Coopers in appreciation of their association with The Bible Society, and the message and tone of the video.
Companies take the same inherent, but calculated, risk when it comes to their support of marriage equality, although I suspect they are more than comforted by the knowledge that a vast majority of Australians support it, coupled by the evidence showing the benefits of inclusive work environments.
That’s the beauty of freedom of speech, freedom of association, and a liberal democracy.
As for not taking sides on the issue, there is a great quote from Desmond Tutu on the subject:
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
The Australian ‘Christian’ Lobby and the Lachlan Macquarie Institute
I have zero respect for the Australian ‘Christian’ Lobby, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon …
They are not ‘entitled’ to respect. Respect is earned.
Their faux-conscience and morality dissolve in the tears of the children sexually, physically, and psychologically abused by Christian religious organisations over the decades, with utter impunity, and without remorse.
They are not ‘entitled’ to an opinion. An ‘opinion’ in the absence of evidence and facts to support it, is nothing more than bigotry, hatred, and prejudice manifest. They are only ‘entitled’ to what they can coherently argue, and factually and intellectually support.
As I noted above, this is not a ‘conversation’ or a ‘debate’. We already had the ‘conversation’ and the ‘debate’. For over a decade and a half. It is over. This is now a spiteful war of attrition, in the name of ancient and uninformed religious dogma.
When the LGBT community challenges the Australian ‘Christian’ Lobby, and related or similar organisations, and the people associated with them, that’s not ‘persecution’ or an ‘attack’ on their freedom of speech. It is accountability over their often questionable actions and words, and rank hypocrisy. Words that are regularly laced with calculated half-truths, and malicious lies.
Let’s not overlook the simple fact that the Australian ‘Christian’ Lobby is arguably nothing more and nothing less than an anti-LGBT hate group, with its practical activities largely focused on targeting the LGBT community generally, and the campaign for marriage equality and the Safe Schools program, designed to provide a safe environment for LGBT youth, in particular.
As for the Australian ‘Christian’ Lobby’s controversial Lachlan Macquarie Institute, it is not your average Christian ‘charity’ either – they make it clear its purpose is to ‘make our parliaments pro-life and pro-marriage,’ and the Institute is created because to achieve that aim they ‘need leaders who are equipped to promote and defend the values we share.’ Sounds dangerously like dominionism, the ideology that seeks to institute a nation governed by Christians based on Christian understandings of biblical law.
The idea of our parliaments filled, or even just influenced, by people espousing the outdated, extremist religious ‘values’ of the Australian ‘Christian’ Lobby sends shivers down my spine – and you should feel the same way too, unless you would be happy to live in their utopia: a Christian version of Iran.
What the Australian ‘Christian’ Lobby truly hopes to achieve would be nothing less than the destruction of a progressive, secular, and liberal democratic Australia.
Make no mistake, the core ‘values’ and ideology of the Australian ‘Christian’ Lobby, and their ilk, are far more compatible with the core ‘values’ and ideology of the religious extremism we are fighting around the world, than the core values and ideology of our secular, liberal democracy.
Their methods may be far more subtle, but they are tempered only by our well-established doctrine of separation of Church and State, and the institutions and structures put in place by our secular, liberal democracy. I shudder to think what would happen without those structural protections in place.
When it comes to corporate executives being associated with such extremist religious, or other, groups, it comes down to their respective employer’s appetite for risk and controversy as to how they deal with it.
However, it is not unusual for corporate executives or partners of firms not to join, or resign from, the board of external organisations if being on such a board would create a conflict, or a perception of conflict, with their company or firm.
Usually, companies and firms require executives and partners to disclose at the time of joining their external board memberships (and even quit those which may be inappropriate), and later to apply for authorisation to join the board of external organisations, to avoid conflict, or the perception of conflict.
Employment contracts or partnership agreements don’t usually come with a ‘free speech’ clause (except for some contracts in academia).
In fact, in Australia ‘free speech’ is a bit of a misnomer, as strictly speaking we only have a limited, ‘implied freedom of political speech’, and even that only thanks to the High Court of Australia. Historically, we also have other legal limitations on our freedom of speech in Australia, for example discrimination and defamation laws prohibit, or at least make highly undesirable, certain types of speech. Such laws strike a balance between our desire to express ourselves freely, and the less desirable manifestations of the dark side of our human nature.
In any event, our reverence for freedom of speech and expression of ideas should not be exploited and perverted to reanimate ideas rightfully confined to the graveyard of intellectually bankrupt and inherently evil concepts – when humans were finally prohibited to burn and drown witches, no doubt many felt their freedoms of religion and expression were grievously abridged.
Nevertheless, relevant anti-discrimination laws may also come into play to protect the associations of executives and partners in certain circumstances, however, corporations and firms are generally entitled to enforce the terms of their employment contracts and partnership agreements, and to protect their reputation.
This means that they can rely, in certain circumstances, on inappropriate external conduct, or a breach of an employment contract or partnership agreement, to terminate a person’s employment or partnership if that conduct conflicts with their obligations to their employer or partners, or if it threatens the public reputation of the employer or partners.
Anyone is perfectly free to bring such conflict, or perception of conflict, to the attention of corporations and firms, whether a ‘gay activist’, or not, and then it is up to the relevant corporation or firm to decide whether there is a conflict or perception of conflict and, if so, how they are going to handle the matter.
At the end of the day I am confident we will triumph with eloquence, intelligence, and love over the ‘values’ of the Australian ‘Christian’ Lobby: mindless bigotry, discrimination, hate, homophobia, ignorance, and prejudice.
Their ‘freedom’ to hate ends once and for all where our human dignity begins.
With the exception of a few incidents, usually sparked by anti-LGBT violence by police or other opponents, the LGBT rights movement has been one of the most peaceful human rights and social justice movements in human history.
On the other hand, members of the LGBT community have long suffered actual persecution, and physical violence, caused by the very bigotry, hate, and ignorance still fanned by organisations such as the Australian ‘Christian’ Lobby. In Sydney alone, 88 unsolved murders of gay men have been flagged as likely hate crimes, hanging over from a time when LGBT people were violently hunted with impunity.
Remember, human rights and social justice know no culture, nationality, race, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation; they bow to no religion or sovereignty.
It is the very essence of our progressive, liberal democracy that all are equal under our secular laws, and human rights and social justice are not up for debates or popularity contests – they are recognised as constant, inherent, inalienable, and universal.
The only real problem I see here is that an incompetent, failing government, which has proved itself to be incapable to show leadership, allowed a straight forward social justice law reform issue to be swallowed up by its reactionary, right-wing faction, supported by ignorant religious extremists, because our Prime Minister holds on to his leadership only by the grace of their continuing support.
On the issue of marriage equality, Malcolm Turnbull is in 2017, what Julia Gillard was in 2012, Kevin Rudd was in 2007, and John Howard was in 2004 – a hypocritical and out-of-touch ‘leader,’ forcing a long-suffering community to continue to endure the vicious and malicious attacks of an ignorant minority.