Advocating For Freedom FROM Religion

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Image: Stefan Kunze

A third of Australians don’t believe in god. In the US, 1 in 10 citizens don’t believe in god. With the current debate around religious freedom, you’d think we’d be discussing freedom *from* religion, too. If only…

The success of the same-sex marriage postal survey in Australia really was a slippery slope. But it wasn’t towards bestiality or transgender people doing more than urinating in their preferred bathroom — it was actually towards a contentious religious freedom debate. More specifically into how it should be implemented through Australia’s religious and non-religious institutions. However, I argue that we need to advocate for freedom from religion, too. Pious fanatics are going too far and forgetting their true values, while the rest of their faith take on progressive attitudes. Also, with atheism being the largest religion in Australia (if you don’t group all the Christian factions together as one), freedom from religion is obligatory.

Image: Grant Whitty

The most controversial issue to come out of the religious freedom debate was the right for faith-based schools to fire gay teachers and expel gay students. I’m highly certain that a good portion of those schools in Australia will not expel gay students, nor would they fire gay staff, but I wouldn’t want to give them that right in the first place. Imagine (hypothetically) if Federal Parliament gave everyone the right to fire Asians without a proper reason. No major company would allow this (think of the PR nightmare!) but it’s still a dirty stain to have. That doesn’t mean religious institutions shouldn’t have the ability to fire anyone. I mean, sure, if a teacher is found to have Satanic views or is a huge fan of Darwinism then perhaps it’s best not to have them on board. But sexuality? They’re teaching kids and teenagers maths, science(?), English, liberal arts(?), social studies and religious texts. I can’t imagine anyone demanding the reinstatement of a sacked teacher because they decided to spend a whole lesson worshipping Russell’s celestial teapot theory at a deeply Catholic college. It would be nuts! But the public should be up in arms about a teacher getting fired because they are gay, especially when it doesn’t impede on their work. The only time sexuality should be a cause for dismissal is if they flaunt it heavily in the schoolyard. Nobody wants to see explicit displays of affection, even from straight people…

Image: Peter Hershey

I agree to an extent when I hear people say, they should be religious if they’re at a faith-based school! But what about outside contractors? What about the Muslim who comes in to fix an IT problem at a Catholic school or the transgender plumber installing a new sink in the Jewish teacher’s lounge? What about the gay firefighter who comes in to teach kids about fire danger or the cop donning a “queer ally” badge coming in to discuss school bullying? I would like to think they have the right to freedom and not be forcibly removed from the premises. They may be on school property, but that doesn’t mean they should be religious. It’s the school’s fault for hiring someone who doesn’t follow their religious views. And more pertinent than that, why should they care what a person does in their private life if it doesn’t affect their ability to work there? And why should the government allow them that right?

However, religion must be credited since the majority of those who follow faith have taken on more progressive views. Recently, a student at St Ignatius’ College — Sydney’s most prominent Catholic school — got a standing ovation after coming out of the closet during an eight-minute speech. A deeply Christian man on Channel 7’s Bride and Prejudice walked his lesbian daughter down the aisle so she can marry her partner, simply because he chose the happiness of his daughter over his own religious views. There’s also the countless amount of support that all the unknown people receive; the sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and acquaintances. But there’s an issue here: many religious fanatics fail to see their religion changing. It’s their choice to not accept those around them, but that doesn’t mean we should cop their stance with unnecessary sackings or vilifying language.

Image: Adli Wahid

In saying that, they should have the right to publicise their views in a non-vilifying way; at least those same-sex couples looking for particular wedding services would know where to avoid. Cake bakers, photographers, caterers and any other entity that deals with weddings should have the right to state on their website or in their business (in a polite way) that they do not want to take part in same-sex weddings for personal religious views. And if they need to tell a same-sex couple that they do not want to bake for them, they should be able to do so while taking full responsibility for how the market reacts. That’s capitalism, and that’s how freedom should be practised.

Freedom shouldn’t discriminate, it should be for all. A religious person should have the right to practice their religion and a non-religious person should have the right to not be imposed by it — and vice versa. A religious entity shouldn’t fire anyone for being gay or transgender or of a differing faith unless it truly impedes on their work or religious practice. And a business should be upheld by the market for whatever views they hold, whether it’s religion, politics or social equality.

C’est la vie.

Originally published at on November 26, 2018.

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Setting the record straight on sexuality and being your most authentic self.

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