Submission to the

Australian Attorney-General’s Department on the

Consolidation of Commonwealth Anti-Discrimination Laws

Dr David Swanton

Director, Ethical Rights Pty Ltd

January 2012

Discrimination Introduction

1. In this brief submission I contend that any discrimination is unacceptable if it has the effect of denying the equality of people and unfairly affecting their interests. Such discrimination should be prohibited and should not be tolerated in religion or any aspect of society.

2. Nobody wants to be discriminated against or otherwise afforded lesser rights and opportunities than other people. If we assume the equality of people (incontrovertible to reasonable people), then it follows that we should prohibit societal or other structures that discriminate or otherwise deny equality to people.

3. My related submission to the National Human Rights Consultation, included at Appendix A [1], recalls the Consultation’s statement that, ‘Human rights are about equality and dignity for everyone in Australia. Human rights are important to Australia’s democracy’. Human rights can be considered as basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, but they cannot be guaranteed if discrimination, including religious discrimination, is permitted.

Discrimination and the imposition of religious views denies equality

4. People are denied equality and dignity if they are discriminated against based on their sex, religion, sexual preference, age, colour, race, language, genome, disability, marital status, etc. Perversely, many religious organisations, which often claim to take the moral high ground, preach discrimination and actively discriminate as their religious texts and church practices discriminate against women, homosexuals, non-believers and people of other religions. Women and homosexuals are forbidden from taking leadership positions in most churches, and religious texts often denigrate and vilify people of other religions.

5. To highlight the malaise with which society blandly and lethargically avoids confronting the injustice of religion-based discrimination, it should be stated that the (sex, sexual preference and religious) discrimination that pervades Christianity, Islam and other religions is ethically as repugnant as the racial intolerance and discrimination that has ruptured societies over the centuries.

6. Would Australians have confidence that public servants with discriminatory religious views would treat unmarried bisexual pregnant women as equals of other candidates at interview? Would we have confidence that religious Prime Ministers or politicians could divorce themselves from their indoctrination and make informed and objective decisions about the role of, for example, women in the workforce or gay marriages, or make an objective decision about whether they should legislate for voluntary euthanasia or embryonic stem cell research, if perchance it conflicts with their belief systems? Some politicians and the clergy are even today making feeble attempts to justify their discrimination on the basis of sexual preference by speaking out against gay marriages.

7. The perception, and most probably the reality, is that religious indoctrination lays the foundation for a person’s true beliefs—discriminatory beliefs that deny equality and that are clearly unacceptable in a secular, modern, multicultural and progressive Australia.

8. The world has a long history of religion-fuelled hostility, which is a logical consequence of thousands of years of religious discrimination, denial of rights, intolerance of other religions, and religions imposing their beliefs on others. Only when people can believe freely in what they will, religious discrimination ceases and religions no longer oppress or impose their religious values on others, can Australia and the world move confidently on a track towards a tolerant, less divisive and more egalitarian future respectful of human rights.

A Hypothetical Discriminatory Religion

9. A case has been made that religions should only be permitted when they do not discriminate, are not imposed on others or otherwise deny people equality, dignity or other fundamental rights.

10. Consider the following scenario. What if a new religion were to be established tomorrow in Australia, and an inspired person drafts a religious text that reflects the perfect views of their new and perfect God. The newly drafted religious text includes the following verses attributable to the new God.

  • An Aboriginal person should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit an Aboriginal person to teach or to have authority over a non-Aboriginal person; the Aboriginal person must be silent.
  • Any Aboriginal person who is arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the priest who represents your God must die.
  • An Aboriginal person who works on God’s holy day will be put to death.
  • If a person has sex with an Aboriginal person, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own hands.

11. The above verses are racist, abhorrent and disgusting. They deny Aboriginal people rights. Such a religious text would be treated with the contempt that any racially discriminatory text deserves. The proponents of the new religion would say that God moves in mysterious ways or that the text is not meant to be taken literally. Neither explanation conceals the underlying racism and discrimination.

12. The astute observer would realise that these verses have been extracted from the Christian Bible and reworked to substitute the phrase ‘Aboriginal person’ in biblical verses that condemn women, non-believers, a person who works contrary to God’s laws, and homosexuals [2].

13. If the newly drafted religious text is disgusting, discriminatory and unacceptable in modern society, then so is the Christian religion, with its racism, sexism, religism [3], homophobia, and particular nastiness. However, religious people do not seem to comprehend that their religious texts represent the uneducated and far from enlightened views of primitive people, and serious belief in such discriminatory values is unworthy of civilised society, and a modern, secular and progressive Australia.

Discrimination Conclusion

14. If the current failings of Australia’s regulatory system for discrimination are not addressed, then Australia is effectively condoning inequality. If Australia is to be regarded as a civilised and progressive society, as is my fervent hope, we cannot permit discrimination against members of our own society.

15. Religion and other structures that discriminate and impose themselves on other people should be considered similarly to a newly drafted religion that discriminates against Aboriginal people: unworthy of a following, worthy of contempt, and unworthy of any exemption from anti-discrimination legislation.

16. I am available to discuss the issues I’ve raised.


[1] National Human Rights Consultation Submission can be found at Human Rights Submission. A related submission (submission 1667) to the to the Australian Human Rights Commission's Inquiry into the Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century, is available at Freedom of Religion Submission.

[2] 1 Timothy 2:11-12, Deuteronomy 17:12, Exodus 35:2 and Leviticus 20:13 have been reworked to substitute the phrase ‘Aboriginal person’. Numerous other biblical verses are disgusting because of their discrimination against women, homosexuals and non-believers.

[3] This word is taken to mean discrimination against people of different religions, belief or non-belief systems.