A National Test Case
On Friday 13 November 2015, an article entitled 'Catholic Bishops Called to Answer in Anti-Discrimination Test Case' appeared in The Australian. The next day The Weekend Australian reported "The Catholic Church and other opponents of same-sex marriage fear being gagged ahead of the national plebiscite after an anti-discrimination commissioner found bishops have a case to answer over an anti-gay marriage booklet."
|Archbishop Julian Porteous
The threatened test case is based on
a complaint by Hobart Greens political candidate, Martine Delaney, against
Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteus. Delaney, who comes from a Catholic family, identifies as a transgender female, and lives with a female partner, felt
"offended and humiliated" by the circulation of a booklet to the parents of Catholic school students. This booklet, published and distributed by the Catholic Bishops' Conference, explains the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage. So Delaney also complained about the Conference, which represents all Catholic bishops in Australia.
Also supporting a national test case is homosexual lobbyist, Rodney Croome, national convenor of
Australian Marriage Equality, who has called for the prosecution of the Catholic bishops and has urged people to complain to the Commission.
Section 17(1) of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 in Tasmania makes it an offense for a person to engage "in any conduct which offends, humiliates, initimidates, insults or ridicules another person".
Written 5 years ago, the Canberra Declaration pointed to the dangers of such anti-discrimination laws with these words,
"We affirm the basic necessity ... to speak publicly about one's faith and beliefs ...
In Australia today these freedoms are being restricted by ... anti-discrimination legislation, hate crime laws and legislation on religious and sexual vilification - each of which may be interpreted in a way that effectively works as a barrier to religious freedom and freedom of speech."
Ironically, laws which are supposed to protect citizens from intimidation have the potential to do exactly the opposite.
This may even be the intention of the Anti-Discrimination Commission in threatening to prosecute Catholic bishops with the possibility of being dragged before tribunals. Such a national test case could quash
a fair and robust debate on the redefinition of marriage in the lead up to the plebiscite.
Salt Shakers state in their prayer points, "the homosexual lobby don't want a debate and they don't want a plebiscite, and they will do all they can to intimidate anyone who dares stand against their agenda - but we must stand."