Just and humane laws will respect the clear and vital distinction between opposing an activity or someone’s personhood, writes Campbell Markham.
Last week the Federal Group denied service to a Coalition for Marriage gathering.
The Plenary Hall at Wrest Point Casino was booked and paid for, and then cancelled forty-eight hours before the event.
The University of Tasmania was approached. The Stanley Burbury Theatre was free, but the University also denied service. The event “did not fit within the terms of hire for university facilities.” Thankfully the Vice-Chancellor reviewed the refusal, and the evening went ahead.
We could say a lot about the Federal Group’s discourteousness, cancelling very late a booking made in good faith. And we could say a lot about the University’s attitude towards free speech: if a public university is not going to facilitate fierce thought and open discussion, then who is?
But it is the refusal of service that we must focus on right now.
It is now commonplace for venues to refuse to serve Christian events, for publishers to refuse to print Christian books, and for ad agencies to refuse to promote Christian events. In fact in 2011 a local agency refused to promote a pro-marriage event that I was organising.
While this more or less painful and inconvenient, it is not inherently wrong.
No business should be allowed to refuse service to a person because of that person’s attributes. No business should refuse to serve someone because of their gender, mobility, education, sexual preference, marital status, religion, skin colour, or anything else.
But every business should be free to refuse to give their resources and skills to serve—and thereby participate—in an activity that they believe to be wrong.
There is a clear and important distinction here that must be respected.
Freedom of conscience is a natural human right. No one should be forced to act against their beliefs and convictions. Even if we don’t agree with or understand their convictions.
To coerce a person to act against their conscience is the worst kind of violence. For it reaches past a person’s body and strikes at their spirit and soul, the very heart of their being.
That is why no legal action will be brought against the Federal Group. They are not free to deny service to Christians because they are Christians. But they should be free to deny service to Christians, or anyone else, if they believe that group is doing something that they think, for whatever reason, is immoral.
With this in mind, I urge everyone to read Rodney Croome’s recent booklet, “Devil in the Detail: the choice between true marriage equality and new forms of discrimination against LGBTI Australians.”
Croome’s thesis could not be plainer: the LGBTI community must not accept redefined marriage laws if those laws come with attached protections of freedom of speech, conscience, and religion.
“The LGBTI community has clearly spoken and does not accept marriage equality if it comes with caveats.” The “caveats” are legal protections for religious volunteers and business owners, whose conscience forbids them from serving an activity that they believe to be immoral.
Mr Croome allows a single exception: a minister of religion may refuse to solemnise a homosexual wedding. But if the pastor’s conscience is respected, no other human being’s will be.
Business owners and volunteers will be coerced by law to provide their goods and services to serve an activity, even if, according to their beliefs and moral convictions, that activity is wrong.
Let us be very clear. No one agrees that any business may refuse to serve a person because that person identifies as LGBT or Christian.
But a business must be able to refuse to serve an activity¬—whether it is a Christian marriage rally or a homosexual wedding—if they believe this activity to be wrong.
Any just and humane laws will respect this clear and vital distinction between person and activity.
Yes it is unpleasant to be refused service, and I know this from personal experience. But I chose not feel hurt and insulted. As human beings we are responsible for our own emotions. We can choose how to respond to the behaviour of others.
And the refusal couldn’t remove a single carat of my dignity or humanity.
What does eat away our humanity are totalitarian laws that force a person to act against their own souls.
Will we permit them?
Reprinted from Family Voice Australia.