According to the Universal Declaration of Rights:
“The freedom to observe and practise religious faith protects the inherent dignity of individuals, acknowledging the autonomy of individuals to make decisions about the way they live their lives.”
Yet many religious people want to deny that individual autonomy to others. They don’t just want the right to practise their beliefs – they want to impose them on everyone through law.
The 17th century philosopher, John Locke, wrote about the importance of tolerating other religious beliefs:
“The Toleration of those that differ from others in Matters of Religion, is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the genuine Reason of Mankind, that it seems monstrous for Men to be so blind, as not to perceive the Necessity and Advantage of it, in so clear a light.”
Thomas Jefferson, writing about religious freedom in 1781, said:
“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
During the debate about marriage equality, the religious extremists made ridiculous claims that the marriage act would be defiled in some way if extended to same sex couples – that their own marriages would become worthless. Apparently, marriage must remain an exclusive club reserved for people like them.
The same sort of hysteria surrounded the Safe Schools program. Apparently, if young people hear anything about homosexuality or gender diversity they will immediately be forced to give it a go – which might explain why so many religious people don’t want their children having any form of sex education so when young girls get their periods for the first time they can think they are dying?
The parade of religious men wanting to condemn as criminals women who terminate a pregnancy is gobsmacking. It is an agonising decision for any woman to make but one that she must have the right to make. After all, Tony Abbott lectured us that “this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold….needs to be moderated”, and contraception doesn’t always work. But these men think a woman is obliged to give up her life should sperm meet egg.
When I was at uni in the 70s, on a poster proclaiming “Abortion is murder”, someone had scrawled “Does that make miscarriage manslaughter?”.
Graffiti was an art form in those days. On another poster calling for “Free Vasectomies Now”, someone wrote “I didn’t know he was in gaol”. Perhaps if women insisted that all men must have a vasectomy after fathering two children, they might decide that allowing us some say over our own bodies might be OK after all.
Whilst Scott Morrison commits resources to address the tragedy of youth suicide, men aged over 85 have the highest suicide rate in Australia, more than double that of teenagers. The opposition to assisted dying is forcing our elderly to take their own lives, sometimes in terribly tragic ways. They deserve better choices.
And that is what it is all about – personal choice.
Scott Morrison met with religious leaders to discuss progress in the government’s plans to introduce a Religious Discrimination Bill later this year but it seems to be more about protecting their right to discriminate than protecting them from discrimination.
I will absolutely defend the right of anyone to not enter into a homosexual relationship, to not have an abortion regardless of their health, circumstances or how capable they are of caring for a(nother) child, to not choose to end their lives regardless of how much suffering they are enduring, and to engage in archaic worship rituals with men wearing funny clothes.
They already have that freedom with or without my blessing or support.
But it isn’t freedom they want – it is dominion over others’ right to choose.
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