Discrimination isn’t always such a bad thing
The following article was originally posted at: http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/3945628.html
Reprinted with permission.
Editor’s Note: Adam Ch’ng resides Melbourne, Australia. The political left is the same everywhere.
12 APRIL 2012
Having attended a Catholic high school, I quite reasonably assumed that my teachers were themselves, well, Catholic.
Similarly, it would be slightly inappropriate if the staffer employed by my local Liberal parliamentarian was a card-carrying member of the ALP.
It therefore strikes me as passing strange that there are calls to prohibit religious schools from being able to refuse employment to someone whose religion, sexual orientation or marital status is inconsistent with the school’s religious belief. In short, it is an attempt to restrict the right to discriminate.
As it stands, the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination against persons with an ‘attribute’ – such as sexual orientation, religious belief or disability – in the course of employment, education, and other activities.
However, there are approximately 44 exceptions to the rule. One such exception is found in section 83 which provides that religious schools may discriminate on the basis of a person’s religion, sexual orientation or marital status, where the discrimination:
“… conforms with their religious doctrines; or is reasonably necessary to avoid injury to the sensitivities of the religious adherents.”
Section 83, it is proposed, should be repealed.
Now let’s get something straight: ‘discrimination’ in itself is not a bad thing. If the hysteria perpetuated by the bleeding hearts is to be believed, mere mention of the word is morally offensive and should be legally sanctioned.
The reality is we all discriminate, every moment of every day. Whether we are deciding what health insurer to sign up with or what school to send our children to, we make choices favouring one party over another. Our legal system rightly discriminates against aspiring lawyers who are not ‘fit and proper’ persons and our armed forces appropriately discriminate against aspiring soldiers who fail to meet the physical fitness requirements.
So let’s not immediately assume that discrimination is the moral evil it’s made out to be. In fact, discrimination is indispensible to our ability to make moral choices between good and bad, right and wrong, and of course Liberal and Labor. It is our right to discriminate.
The question then is not whether religious schools should have the right to discriminate. Instead, it is whether that discrimination is unjustified. And insofar as it is justified, the law should protect and not restrict that right.
So is a religious school’s right to discriminate unjustified? Melissa Matheson certainly thinksso:
“If religious schools are willing to accept funding from the government, they should have to play by the rules like everyone else – and that includes equal opportunity.”
At first blush, this sounds perfectly reasonable. After all, if ‘everyone else’ can’t discriminate, why should religious schools get special treatment? All Matheson is proposing is that religious schools be brought into line with ‘everyone else’. But who exactly is ‘everyone else’? And do they all actually ‘play by the rules’?
As it happens, government-funded organisations of all stripes can discriminate on a whole range of matters. The act permits political parties to discriminate against prospective employees on the basis of their political belief or activity. Schools are allowed to discriminate against students through age-based admission schemes and quotas. And single-sex, age-specific and minority culture clubs can exclude from membership people who are not of the same sex, age or culture.
Each of these groups has a legitimate core philosophy that defines their very reason for existence. To adapt Justice Sachs’ words in Christian Education South Africa v Minister of Education, the state should seek to avoid putting people to extremely painful and intensely burdensome choices of either being true to their faith or philosophy, or else respectful of the law.
The simple truth is, religious schools are already playing by the rules like ‘everyone else’. If the equal opportunity crusaders really want a level playing field, why don’t they lodge a complaint against the university womyn’s group for discriminating against men?
I suspect that the real issue at play has nothing to do with equal opportunity legislation, education policy or even discrimination law. If it did, surely the other exceptions under the act would be targeted for repeal and other non-Christian interest groups would be similarly attacked.
Instead, it seems to me that this has far more to do with a rather evangelical crusade against the Christian church. Matheson would do well to note that the right to discriminate she fervently preaches against is similarly enjoyed by Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, the very people she calls Christians to repent of excluding.
Whether it is same-sex marriage or equal opportunity, the knives are out for the Christian church.
Such calls to restrict our right to discriminate should send chills down all our spines. What appears to promote greater freedom and equality actually extends the reach of government regulation into our homes, churches and community groups.
We all have the right to discriminate but the equal opportunity crusaders will stop at nothing to set political correctness in statutory stone.
Adam Ch’ng is a graduate at a law firm in Melbourne where he principally practices employment and workplace relations law. The views expressed here are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of his employer or any other organisation. View his full profile here.