Jim Wallace was on The Project (Seg 1: Headlines, 6:00) on the 16th of January to justify Prime Minister Gillard’s stance on Anti-Discrimination Legislation, specifically the blanket exemption for religious organisation. Religious organisations will have the ability to fire unwed mothers, and gay people.
Wallace tells us that Gillard has assured the ACL that “Gillard has assured that religious institutes will still be able to discriminate based on sexuality, this means schools and hospitals will be entitled to fire/refuse to hire members of the LGBT community.” (OutInPerth, 17 Jan 2013)
Gillard’s spokespeople have neither confirmed nor denied this, simply stated that “we don’t comment on discussions with stakeholders.”
It will come as no surprise to any of my readers that I consider Jim Wallace to be a vile man and a disgrace to Christians everywhere. I also believe that he single-handedly does more damage to the reputation of Christianity than any other Australian figure (Though Cardinal Bishop Pell is close).
Aaaaaaanyway… during his interview he makes a few statements and I don’t think one of them is actually unassailable.
For those too busy to read the whole thing, there’s a “What can I do” section at the end.
Gorgi Coghlan: “Why should you have the right to fire a receptionist who uses IVF or a cleaner who lives with his girlfriend?”
Wallace: “When the church goes into the public square… it’s trying to demonstrate the values and ethics of Christ.”
The values and ethics of Christ. The same Christ who spoke out so harshly against the pharisees? The same Christ who purposely associated with the outcasts, the poor, and those who were discriminated against in Jewish society? I have news for you Jimbo, you are in the public square, and it is you who is failing to show the values and ethics of Christ.
We don’t try to get employed by you…
Dr Andrew Rochford: “One of those wonderful values that I took away from Catholic Schooling was do unto others as you would do unto yourself … Surely you wouldn’t want to be discriminated against, so why is it OK for you guys to discriminate – against anyone?”
Wallace: “Well, I don’t think anyone is. All we’re trying to achieve is the same as every politician in Australia has, in that they’re not required, if they’re a Labor MP to actually hire someone who’s a card carrying member of the Liberal Party as their chief of staff. And I certainly don’t try to get myself employed, and I’m not aware of any Christians trying to be employed in gay bars or gay institutions, and I would expect that the gay population should be extending that same privilege, same courtesy to Christians”
Can you just hear my head spinning?
There’s some dissection required here. I’m going to leave the Politician statement for a moment, because they go further in depth in the next question. But there are a few flaws in that second statement.
The False Dichotomy:
Where you say things are one or the other, not both. Wallace clearly believes that you are either gay, or Christian, but never both. He is wrong. In fact, The Project very recently did a story on Gay Christians, and I know quite a number of Gay Christians personally.
The Argument From Ignorance:
Also known by the saying that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” – an accusation that the church levels at atheists from time to time, so I would’ve thought Jim would have been familiar with it, but I digress – Just because Jim doesn’t personally know of any Christians trying to be employed by gay institutions, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t Christians employed by gay institutions.
The biggest problem with this argument is that all it takes is one person with a single data point to refute it. For example, I know a straight Christian man who is occasionally a presenter on JOY.FM – a gay radio station. I have a Christian friend who was on the board of Working It Out Inc, a GLBTI organisation aimed at helping people accept their sexual orientation or gender diversity. And those are two examples I can think of in the space of five minutes without any serious brain-wracking.
The False Analogy:
This is a fallacy where you take two things that are not the same and treat them as if they are. Wallace supplies a fantastic example by suggesting that Faith-based employers and gay institutions are the same. They aren’t.
Christian employers are some of the largest organisations in the country – They operate nursing homes, schools, employment agencies, foster care and adoption services, emergency housing, and more, all with surprisingly little oversight on how monies given to them by the government are spent. Gay institutions are typically small, very focussed, and subject to outcomes-based funding.
If you are considering going into aged care, for example you have almost no choice but to apply with faith-based organisations. And the same with a lot of social services. Show me a scenario where to work in a certain industry, you almost have to be employed by a “gay institution”. I have a vague notion that a drag queen might find it difficult, but that’s about it…
And under the new legislation, gay institutions would not be eligible to discriminate against the Christian anyway – so is he advocating that we should be able to do so?
But we don’t know it’s not a choice…
Gorgi Coghlan: “Jim, when you talk about political affiliation… If I vote Greens, it’s because I choose to vote Greens, if I vote Liberals, it’s because I choose to vote Liberals but if I’m gay that’s not a choice, so is this really fair?”
Wallace: “Well that’s arguable because we haven’t really found a gay gene. But without opening that up, I think the reality is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights actually protects as a fundamental freedom, freedom of religion. And amongst that is for instance in the situation of schools the right to come together in community and educate your children in the faith. And that involves creating the environment for that.”
We haven’t found a single “gay gene” – he is correct. But there are links between genes for female fertility and increased incidence of homosexuality, as well as connections between finger-length and sexuality. We also have the environment in the womb and a few other factors that have been identified as increasing the likelihood of homosexuality. The American Psychological Association says that “Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”
As for his reference to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, he is referring to Article 18.
1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.
Article 26 states “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
Article 26 would surely be a clause under which 18.3 is invoked. And I do not believe that Religious Schooling was what was in mind for Article 18 regardless. “Manifesting your religion in teaching” would, I believe, refer to teachings of doctrine from the pulpit, not the teaching of a general curriculum with a Christian bent. Wallace has combined sections 1 and 4 to come to his statement. To ensure the freedom to come together in community is to ensure the freedom to gather as a church would gather and section 4 says that you have the right to impart to your child the values and beliefs that you want to. I do not believe that if Jim took a case to the Human Rights Commission based on his stated interpretation, it would succeed.
The fundamental freedom to practice religion ends when you impinge on my fundamental right to not be discriminated against.
Lets not talk about the help…
Charlie Pickering: “You say lets not open up that debate about choosing sexuality, but in essence we have to, in essence you’re picking and choosing on what grounds you get to discriminate against someone when it really doesn’t matter. I’m curious to know how a gay person working at a high school answers the phone any differently to a straight person”
Wallace: “You always reduce it to the lowest common denominator – the receptionist or the gardener, but we’re talking her more fundamentally about the teachers and what they teach the children, we’re talking about the example that they set for children in their moral lives and for a Christian school for instance, it’s a very important issue”
That could be because you’re fighting for the ability to fire receptionists, gardeners, nurses in aged care facilities as well as teachers… Tell me why your exemption isn’t just for schools, or teachers in schools if that is your concern – why keep the blanket for employment agencies, aged care facilities, and all the rest?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when you take public money to provide a service to the public, that is not an opportunity for you to proselytise and show your faith. It’s an opportunity to exercise your gifts by doing a service for the community. And because it’s government money, you need to provide that service for and with all sections of the public.
My overall opinion: Public money, public rules. If you want to discriminate, do it on an entirely religious dollar.
What can I do?
Finally, what you can do: The anti-discrimination legislation legislation isn’t passed yet, so there is still time to influence things like religious exemptions and protected attributes.
Don’t forget to:
- Join the GetUp Campaign against the religious exemptions.
- Send a Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee on the issue.