The Rationalist Society of Australian (RSA) has written to Liberal Party MP Dave Sharma to congratulate him for taking a stand against measures that would provide religious organisations and people with a ‘sword’ to discriminate.
In a letter sent late last month (see below), RSA president Meredith Doig welcomed his “principled stance” on the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill.
Sharma, the member for Wentworth, was among a number of federal Liberal Party members of parliament who recently raised their concerns about the legislation with Attorney-General Michaelia Cash.
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Sharma warned Attorney-General Cash that several parts of the draft legislation were unacceptable.
Dr Doig pointed out that Sharma’s position mirrored that of the RSA, which was not opposed to laws that acted as ‘shields’.
“The RSA is not opposed to a law that acts as a shield against discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, but does not support a law that may be used as a sword to impose religious belief, to inflict harm or to punish those who abandon or change their religion,” the letter said.
Dr Doig also noted that the Attorney-General was yet to respond to the RSA’s request for a meeting, even though the government had been busy consulting with religious lobby groups on the issue.
The RSA has joined with a number of other pro-secular community groups in supporting the #DontDivideUs campaign against the Religious Discrimination Bill. You can support the campaign here.
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman
RSA letter to Dave Sharma MP, 26 July 2021
Dear Mr Sharma,
I am writing on behalf of the Rationalist Society of Australia to congratulate you on your stance in respect of the draft Religious Discrimination Bill.
The facts show the vast majority of Australians, whether they are religious or non-religious, agree with you that the rights and dignity of LGBTI Australians should not be diminished by this proposed law (see pages 112 to 122 of our report Religiosity in Australia).
The Sydney Morning Herald quotes you as saying:
“The bill should be narrowly cast so it provides the same level of protection against discrimination on the basis of religion that people have on race and gender. But it shouldn’t go any further than that.”
This is exactly the position adopted by the Rationalist Society in our submission on the previous drafts of the Bill. As we wrote in our submission:
“The RSA is not opposed to a law that acts as a shield against discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, but does not support a law that may be used as a sword to impose religious belief, to inflict harm or to punish those who abandon or change their religion.”
Anti-discrimination laws should be shields, not swords.
I hope the Attorney-General listens to you. Unfortunately, the RSA has not received a reply to our request for a meeting with the Attorney-General or the Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General to discuss the bill.
Once again, thank you for your principled stance on this important issue.