Today, Australia’s House of Representatives has been debating the Religious Discrimination Bill. The history of this bill goes back to the debate leading up to the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2017. The Liberals gave assurances that, in the wake of this legislation, they would put forward a bill to protect religious people against discrimination. It’s taken them a long time — they said the bill would be passed before the 2019 election. Now it’s finally before Parliament, but it’s been so weakened as to almost become meaningless. Yet the debate has validated concerns that were expressed in the same-sex marriage debates some years ago.
One of the most prominent campaigners for same-sex marriage was Christine Forster, the lesbian sister of former PM Tony Abbott. During that campaign, she reportedly said, “Religious institutions and schools are free and are protected by our existing legislation and our constitution to teach their beliefs. That will not change because same-sex couples can get married.” This was in response to those who argued that same-sex marriage would lead to an erosion of religious liberty for churches and Christian schools. Not just Forster, but others too argued that nothing would change. Bible-believing churches and Christian schools would be able to carry on with their status quo.
In today’s debate, a Tasmanian independent MP rose to express his opposition to the Religious Discrimination Bill. Andrew Wilkie argued not that this bill was too weak, but that it went too far. Prime Minister Scott Morrison had promised a bill that would be a shield and not a sword. However, Wilkie insisted that this bill was going to allow religious people to discriminate. He said, “It could allow faith-linked schools to teach students that marriage can only be a man and a woman, despite the overwhelming majority of Australians voting in favour of marriage equality, and it now being Australian law.” Contrary to the assurances of Christine Forster, it sounds like the adoption of same-sex marriage has indeed become a threat to Christian schools and churches.
In postmodern identity politics, no one’s word can be taken at face value. After all, there is no objective right or wrong. There is no truth or lie. There is only power. If you have power, you can do whatever you please. The Religious Discrimination Bill might be better than nothing, but in the overall scheme of things it’s too little too late. The Australian public bought the lie that same-sex marriage was simply about letting people love who they wanted to love. The left saw that as a green light to go on marginalizing biblical Christianity.
It remains to be seen whether the bill will pass in the House of Representatives and, if it does, whether it will be even further weakened through amendments. There’s also the potential of amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act. These amendments could gut Section 38.3, which gives Christian schools the right to be operated according to Christian principles. There’s a lot at stake this week in Canberra and much reason to be on our knees.