Target: Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia
Goal: Remove the exemption for religious organizations from the Australian anti-discrimination law
The Australian government is planning to update its anti-discrimination law to include protections for the LGBT population against discrimination in employment. Although it will ensure that gay individuals are not discriminated against in most circumstances, Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has stated that religious organizations will be exempt from the law, even those that receive government funding. Religious organizations provide a large percentage of the jobs in the country, and allowing those organizations to take sexual orientation into consideration when making hiring decisions will have a significant negative effect on employment in the LGBT community.
The head of the anti-gay Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has stated that being legally allowed to deny employment to gay individuals is a matter of religious freedom, comparing it to political campaigns hiring based on the political views of applicants. According to him, the “lifestyles” of employees in Christian organizations must be in line with beliefs of the religion so as to avoid offending members of the religion. Prime Minister Gillard promised the ACL that the new law would not affect “religious freedom,” and that religious organizations would be allowed to continue discriminating. Although Gillard and the ACL insist that this is a matter of religious freedom and not one of anti-gay discrimination, Gillard has openly expressed her opposition to LGBT rights.
This exemption from the law means that LGBT individuals employed by religious organizations must either hide their identities or risk being fired or denied employment. There are cities in which all schools and hospitals are considered religious organizations, and refusing to hire members of the LGBT community could lead to the community not having the most qualified teachers and doctors. Anti-discrimination laws often do not apply to private institutions, but because these religious organizations receive government money, they must comply with the laws that govern public organizations.
As one of the members of parliament suggested, it is the government’s job to prevent discrimination and side with those who are being discriminated against. In this case, Gillard and the government have instead taken the side of those who claim they must discriminate, using religious freedom as justification. The Australian government must remove the exemption for religious organizations and require all employers to make employment decisions without discriminating.
Dear Prime Minister Gillard,
The Australian government has stated that it plans to exempt religious organizations from adhering to its anti-discrimination law. Although officials claim that this decision was made to preserve religious freedom, it will give religious institutions the right to deny employment to gay individuals.
Religious organizations make up a large percentage of the employers in Australia, and giving those groups the privilege to discriminate against anyone whose identity they disapprove of will not only affect the individuals who do not get hired, but the communities who are denied the services of those who are not hired will also suffer.
Governments have an obligation to ensure that citizens are not being discriminated against, and not to support the right of institutions to continue discriminating. Please remove the exemption given to religious organizations so that all employers will be legally required to treat everyone equally.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: mind on fire via Flickr