Australian theocracy

Examples from The Guardian at which discrimination based on religious arguments should become legal in Australia:

  • A doctor may tell a transgender patient of their religious belief that God made men and women in his image and that gender is therefore binary (EM)

  • A single mother who, when dropping her child off at daycare, may be told by a worker that she is sinful for denying her child a father (Public Interest Advocacy Centre)

  • A woman may be told by a manager that women should submit to their husbands or that women should not be employed outside the home (PIAC)

  • A student with disability may be told by a teacher their disability is a trial imposed by God (PIAC)

  • A person of a minority faith may be told by a retail assistant from another religion that they are a “heathen destined for eternal damnation” (PIAC).

  • A Catholic doctor refusing to provide contraception to all patients (EM) or to prescribe hormone treatment for gender transition (Equality Australia, Just Equal, LGBTI Health Alliance)

  • A Catholic nurse who refused to participate in abortion procedures (EM) or to provide the morning-after pill to a woman admitted to hospital after a sexual assault (Equality Australia)

  • A pharmacist refusing to provide the pill to women for contraceptive use (EM), or hormone treatment (Public Interest Advocacy Centre, LGBTI Health Alliance)

  • A doctor could refuse to prescribe post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) within the required 72-hour window to a patient whose condom broke during a sexual encounter on the basis of religious beliefs that forbid sexual activity outside of marriage (Equality Australia)

  • A psychiatrist could say to a woman with depression that “she should be looking forward to the kingdom of heaven”. (Equality Australia)

  • A Jewish school may require that its staff and students be Jewish and accordingly refuse to hire or admit someone because they were not Jewish (EM)

  • A student attends the same religious school through their primary and secondary education. At 16 they lose faith in the religion of the school and tell a teacher that they are now agnostic. The school would be able to expel, suspend or otherwise punish, for example, give detention to the student (PIAC)

  • A homeowner seeking a tenant for their spare room may require that the tenant be of the same religious belief or activity as the homeowner (EM).

9 Responses to “Australian theocracy”

  1. drewancameron Says:

    An explicit purpose of the proposed Australian laws is to create new exemptions from current anti-discrimination laws for people expressing religious ‘beliefs’, i.e., to remove important protections from vulnerable groups under a hateful ideological banner (namely, the version of ‘Christianity’ in which you do exactly the opposite of what the biblical Jesus character would do: i.e., be greedy, selfish, spiteful, petty, judgemental). It’s just another back and forth in the culture wars, but the arc of history is long & so on …

  2. Actually (and I realise this may sound like socialist propaganda!), nurses in the public health system are paid less, with harsher working conditions. State health insurance also contributes to private clinics and liberal health workers, if at the same amount as with their public counterparts. The reasons why there are still workers in the public health system are diverse, from dedication to a reluctance to work with private management, to sticking with a civil servant status. A relevant side-story is that there was a (short-lived) debate in 2016 whether or not French pharmacists could refuse to deliver contraceptive drugs, incl. the morning after pill, based on their moral beliefs. Since pharmacies are part of a regulated business monopole in France (like tobacconists!), the (then socialist) government vetoed the proposal.

  3. Radford Neal Says:

    So I take it you think that allowing a nurse who believes abortion is murder to refuse to participate in abortions is “theocracy”?

    I think you should think hard about who here is the one imposing their religous/ethical beliefs on others.

    • In France, hospital nurses & doctors, like teachers, incl. university professors, or policemen are civil servants and as such cannot invoke their religious or other irrational beliefs in their job. While it is not enough to prevent the gradual fragmentation of society into a myriad of communities and communitarisms I do believe this is a minimum to insist upon. Reminds of the discussion we had in Viña del Mar, Chile, for ISBA 2004, about the prohibition of religious symbols in public schools…

    • Radford Neal Says:

      We have the same debate in Canada, regarding a law in Quebec outlawing wearing of “religious symbols” by civil servants, which includes the hijab, despite it not being a religious symbol. (Moslems wearing a hijab are obeying a requirement to dress modestly, not wearing something with any particular symbolism).

      It’s pretty obvious to most Canadians outside Quebec that this law is not a sincere attempt to prevent civil servants from discriminating against citizens of other religions, but rather is itself a pretext for discriminating against non-favoured groups.

      It is pretty obvious to me that people trying to force nurses to engage in what they regard as murder are not sincerely concerned with access to abortion. Surely there are plenty of other nurses who are willing to assist abortions. (If not, it’s hard to see how this policy obtained enough support to be enacted.)

      I suspect that your real motivation is that you cannot tolerate the idea that some people do not agree with your moral views. You feel more comfortable if your views are reinforced by the power of the state, allowing you to more easily dismiss contrary views.

      I don’t know why this totalitarian impulse seems to arise from French culture. I hope it doesn’t today reach the level of the French Revolution, with the genocide of Catholics in the Vendee region.

      • @Radford Neal,

        There is a dearth of starkly and proudly secular governance in the world in my opinion, ,whatever values they may embrace. Also, there is a difference between being outright unwelcoming or even seeking to exile people with differences and expecting them to align with certain social norms, including language and dress. The latter are often self&determined by the country’s people.

        For hijab, bans could be as much a secularly feminist statement as anything else, responding to asymmetry in expectations for modesty between genders of choice. Would it be wrong for the secular majority culture to insist a minority respect their members be allowed to express gender identities different from their birth identity? Or same gender sexual preferences?

      • Nurses and doctors are free to practice as self-employed individuals or in private clinics, in which cases the neutrality requirement does not apply. (Historians dispute the qualification of genocide about the Vendée and Bretagne ferocious repression during the civil war there, but I do not see the connection with the secular laws since they were voted in 1905, more than a century after the end of the Terror.)

      • Radford Neal Says:


        It comes down to whether you want to live in a free society. There have certainly been many non-free societies, such as Edo-period Japan, in which any Samurai could kill any peasant who didn’t “behave as expected”, or the Puritan Massachusetts Bay colony, in which daily life was heavily regulated on religious grounds. You may want to live in a society in which the dress of civil servants is regulated not for any job-related reason but for the purpose of making a “secularly feminist statement”, or other nebulous goals imposed by the political elite. But I do not.


        It’s good to know that nurses can practice outside the state system. But does hiring such a nurse come with a huge financial penalty, because only state-employed nurses get paid from state health care funds?

        Also, one might expect the employment policy of the government to resemble that of private companies. I think not many private companies would refuse to hire people who would otherwise make good employees because they have religious beliefs that could easily be accommodated. (With the exception of some companies owned or controlled by people who value their bigotry over profit.)

      • @Radford Neal,

        You may want to live in a society in which the dress of civil servants is regulated not for any job-related reason but for the purpose of making a “secularly feminist statement”, or other nebulous goals imposed by the political elite. But I do not.

        You may not. But, as I noted, there’s a dearth of secular society around the world and I am very glad for France’s. I also applaud the move away from Catholicism in PQ, Canada, relegating the edifices to beautiful historical status.

        But there are pockets of such secularism in other countries. I daresay you’ll find it in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for instance. And there always has been, whether among Nonconforming ministers defending fluxions or among New England’s Unitarians, famously, R W Emerson. (Yes, Emerson was probably a racist and certainly a white supremacist, but some progress happens slower.) And I am very glad for them.

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