Rainbow Connection: SSM and Religious Freedom

During Australia’s same sex marriage debate, one group (on the “NO” side) continues to claim that religious freedom will be put at risk should SSM be legalised. The other group (on the “YES” side) continue to insist such concerns are unfounded and are mere red herrings – that the only issue at stake is the happiness of people who want to marry their same sex partner.

But what is the reality?


I heard an interview* on ABC radio this morning that made it clear that any protection of religious freedom will ONLY be applied to religious institutions and not to Christian individuals.
Bringing out the now clichéd example of a cake maker refusing to supply a cake for a same sex wedding, it was made clear that they will be guilty of breaking anti-discrimination laws and will be subject to prosecution.


My own view of that is that it is the EVENT being “discriminated” against – not the people involved. I’m sure the cake maker would be willing to bake cakes for anyone as an individual – just not willing to bake a cake for an event that compromises their religious beliefs.
To take a step to the side – should a cake maker (religious or otherwise) be legally required to supply a cake promoting (legal) extreme right wing groups or other political views that challenge their conscience, or would their refusal be deemed prosecutable discrimination?


Apart from that hypothetical and now clichéd example, we have current cases to look at (not exclusively religious), such as the one described in this story:

A petition with more than 2000 signatures has likened doctors who oppose marriage equality to racists and accused them of contributing to “increased depression.”

The open letter accompanying the petition was written by Perth medical student Carolyn O’Neil and accused more than 400 doctors of adding to “increased depression, anxiety, self‐harm, and suicidal behaviours.”



This follows a situation that I mentioned in an earlier post, where a doctor was being subjected to a petition calling for her to be struck off the medical register.

A woman that appeared in the advertisement for the ‘no’ camp in the same-sex marriage debate is now at the centre of an online campaign to have her medical licence stripped.

The online petition has just over 6,000 signatures and calls for a “review of the registration of Dr Pansy Lai”.

Dr Lai, a GP in northern Sydney, appeared as one of three mothers in the Marriage Coalition advertisement that first aired at the end of last month.

She told The Australian she has been inundated with phone and social media threats since the ad was released and said she had reported one threat to police that she would be shot “this week”.



In recent weeks I’ve kept an eye on several discussions in the media around the topic of same sex marriage and have found very strong anti-Christian attitudes being shown that don’t line up with the assurances that religious freedom won’t be reduced.
The problem with those assurances is what “religious freedom” actually means to those making them. The nature of that “freedom” is being defined by those who won’t be needing it – by the irreligious, the non-believer, and at times those who are actually hostile to all kinds of religious belief.

Those people have NO qualification for understanding the reasons why Christians (or adherents of other religious beliefs) might not agree with same sex marriage. To have that understanding they would need to recognise what it means to believe in a God who has revealed what HE requires of His creation – that it is GOD’s standards that count – not man’s ever changing whims.

Genuine Christians believe in a very REAL God and desire to commit their lives to Him and His ways – to them “religion” is not a mere interest, a hobby – an alternative to sport or any other past time. Their relationship to God is the most important part of their life: in fact it IS their life.


* http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/same-sex-marriage-hate-speech-santow/8884594

7 thoughts on “Rainbow Connection: SSM and Religious Freedom

  1. One thing I’ve noticed in the discussion in the comments section of main stream news sites, is how easily people seem threatened when “God” is mentioned, no matter what the context of that mentioning.

  2. I think, on the issue of businesses, in the end they are not religious institutions and therefore should not be permitted to discriminate against same-sex couples. If we let businesses pick and choose their customer base, where does the line get drawn?

    The example of supplying a service to say, the far-right, creates a false equivalence between same-sex couples and organisations/groups that actively promote discriminatory policies – and usually this sort of thing is covered under hate speech laws. There is a big difference between a couple wanting cakes/flowers/invitations to a wedding, and a group that wants to promote hate and bigotry.

    Yes, things can go too far – and I believe religious institutions should be free to decide for themselves whether to carry out same-sex marriage ceremonies – but I fail to see how denying same-sex couples the same rights as hetrosexual couples, least of all when it won’t affect anyone else, is fair or reasonable.

  3. Yesterday night, during halftime (football), my family and I had a discussion that one of my sons brought up because an acquaintance from high school has “transitioned” [gender, not sex] and says he/she has no obligation to inform anyone, while dating, of the situation… but that he/she does offer than information anyway (so, was expecting some kind of praise). My son was saying there is an obligation (asking whether the rest of us agreed with him). Most of us agreed that people should be honest [their dad didn’t weigh in, he has trouble with moral and logical thinking — thus computers are a good field for him, where you get hard, mechanical yeses and nos; in real life, he waits for a verdict of those around him; on his own, he’s been pro sex with robots, strangers, whatever, and getting away with what you can]. Some of us, including myself, were offended at the idea that it seemed he/she had rights but the people he/she dated didn’t. Others were mostly focusing on the fact that a relationship should be honest (weren’t zoning in on rights or obligation).

    I agree with you that freedom of religion is (or should be) actually more about individuals than organizations. I’m not just looking for the right to submit to someone who decided to make a living by being a leader saying whatever he says. I have my own relationship with God. And I don’t want to have to consult with a priest or rabbi to be able to decide if I’m providing services for a wedding (not that I see myself doing so for anyone). My objections would go beyond gay marriage. In fact, I’d be more apt to refuse a wedding (or baking a cake for a wedding) between people who have abandoned their previous responsibilities in marriage or even pregnancy than a marriage of two women (who haven’t been previously entangled with other people). I say more apt, because there can be mitigating circumstances. I’m a grown person with my own conscience. Also, I don’t think churches or synagogues or Sikh temples (etc.) should be voting blocks.

  4. In answer I’ll use the words of someone who faced a similar situation when a human government demanded a certain action be taken:

    “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to [man] more than to God, you judge.” (context is Acts 4 – word in parentheses amended for relevance).

    Also, please note what I said in my post about the EVENT as contrasted to the individuals.

    Refusing to do ANY business with a homosexual is different to refusal to do specific types of business. I gave the example of the birthday cake contrasted with a wedding cake. One is associated with a general type of celebration that has no association with “sexual preference” – the other is associated with an event that is clearly contrary to what God has revealed through scripture regarding the nature of marriage and sexual relationships.

  5. I suppose you are answering that way to me as well as to “darthtimon” — so I will respond. On an individual, personal level… it’s perfectly fine to discriminate about an individual. If I prefer blonde hair, that’s up to me for me. If I don’t want to date or marry someone who has transitioned or someone with whom I can’t pro-create, that’s up to me. If I prefer someone overweight or someone not overweight, it’s up to me. Some people (even here) actually talk like they don’t understand that. And they get angry and incensed about it. Now, further, there are differences from country to country. Here, people can say what they want (without inciting harm or destruction). I have gathered that some countries don’t fully allow free speech.

    A bakery or cafe or restaurant could put up a sign that says service for weddings and other events — besides birthdays maybe — above two people, must be planned in advance. So then you don’t get a moderate to large group just showing up and carrying on to prove a point, deciding to have an impromptu reception. (I personally feel like if a couple just came on their own after going to a justice of the peace, I would serve them like anyone else — and including no special treatment. Same with an anniversary — although some places offer special treatment for anniversaries. But clearly that’s not what everyone would have to think.) Anyway, if an event has to be pre-planned, then you can make or follow through on your choices.

    But then one would have the matter, still, of birthdays possibly involving something uncomfortable. What if the same sex couple adopts? Then they show up as the parents with a child, whose birthday it is. Or what if one of a pair of women gave birth to the child (impregnated either by choice or by rape, who knows), and is married to another woman? The child is their child (one genetically, the other legally). So maybe a proprietor has to just say all events or occasions have to be pre-planned. I don’t know how that really would work; saying all groups beyond two people is an event seems impractical. And I just don’t think throwing people out for things other than literally stinking or not being dressed or for being too loud and the like makes sense. Plus…

    Do you think we can take the Acts 4 example as
    more of what it says? Speak?

  6. On the doctors, it’s one thing for them to be against voting yes for “ssm” (or however that is best worded for Australia, like voting yes for a referendum, whatever it is), like anyone else can be for or against. I can not see how it would be appropriate to refuse treatment (actual doctoring) of people in these marriages, and their children. Of course, some doctors will not want to be involved in transitioning* treatments. I absolutely don’t think they should be made to participate in that.

    But I know there was a story here of a doctor dropping a child from pediatrics because of same sex parenting. Maybe most of the time, or in most situations, that can be allowed. Whatever; just get a different doctor. But I can see that there would be times a person who is a doctor should go ahead and be a doctor. I don’t think it’s a good witness to say “I don’t care about you.” Depending on the situation, it is possible a doctor should lose a license;
    not for speaking their viewpoint.

    * I know that’s not the same thing, but lots of things can come up.

  7. Another thought. We have been considering the cliche of a cake maker or now the independent doctor, of individuals in a working situation… but individuals with their own authority. A cake maker might own his own business. A doctor might run his own practice. But there are doctors who work for incorporated businesses or chains, and not as CEOs; bakers too. And we know that a restaurant is likely to have hires who are in no way in charge. I suppose that in these cases the individual can hope that an owner/boss will respect their preferences (and choose other employees to make or deliver — and set up, as is usually the case with a wedding cake — a cake someone isn’t happy to make or deliver… or send someone else to an event someone isn’t happy to serve or show up at). But each individual with have to decide how important the topic is to themselves. If a boss doesn’t want to have a hire that doesn’t do what is seen as needed for the job, one might have to risk being fired. But it should only be firing, not prosecution for discrimination (given that nothing else untoward happened). And, on the other hand, if a boss wanted to fire someone for making a cake against policy (and maybe showing up to a homosexual event in the bakery truck with the business name on it), I would think that’s up to the boss/owner. All of this is very sticky territory, though. For instance, I think it’s strange there are chain businesses run by a family that is supposedly all Christian and the same sort of Christian. So, what happens? If one of them has a different outlook, that person no longer is part owner? The policy of the company is no contraceptives for employees (not the family for the most part), based on religion. So there better not be any condoms or pills in the family, the bosses with the supposed principles. And no converting to Judaism or anything.

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