Last week, thanks to the efforts of many dedicated individuals, freedom and common sense won two impressive victories. Such successes were achieved through the defeat of two controversial bills that were introduced in Victoria this year. The ultimate result is not only the safeguarding of the freedom of institutions to employ staff members who are committed to their ethos, but also a victory for a common sense treatment of personal identity.
The first bill, introduced back in August, was the Equal Opportunity Amendment (Religious Exceptions) Bill 2016. It sought to require schools and other faith-based institutions to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the State that a commitment to the ethos of the school or other institution was an “inherent requirement” of a role in order to take a person’s faith into consideration for potential employment. Failure to satisfy the test would mean that the institution would face penalties under anti-discrimination laws.
Political parties are not required to pass an “inherent requirement” test when hiring staff; they are (rightly) permitted to take the political views of an applicant for employment. Why should faith-based institutions be denied the same right? Not only would it have resulted in unequal treatment for faith groups, it also would have dramatically increased the power of the State. It is not for an anti-discrimination tribunal to determine the limits of an institution’s religious identity. The law would have been a dramatic intrusion on religious freedoms.
The second bill was the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2016, which would have entrenched “gender fluidity” deeply into the law, allowing a person to change gender in official records once every 12 months without the need for surgery or hormonal treatment. Subject to a few small limitations, the gender descriptor was not limited to “male” or “female,” but any description chosen by the person. The bill faced many objections, including from women’s groups, who saw it as a negation of the hard work done by feminists over generations.
The defeat of each of these laws was not only a victory for freedom, but also for common sense.
However, we cannot let these achievements allow us to grow lax. With government and the vocal minority intent on taking away our freedoms as Australian citizens, we must constantly defend what we believe in, and our right to do so.