Monday, March 19, 2012

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has expressed concern at comments made by Attorney-General Brian Wightman recently in Tasmanian parliament about proposed changes to the Anti-Discrimination Act.

ACL’s state director Mark Brown said Mr Wightman has mooted changes to “increase some of the protections under the act, including the prohibition of engaging in conduct which offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules another person on the basis of certain attributes by extending this to cover the full range of attributes listed in the act including age, race, sexual orientation and disability” [1]

“ACL certainly objects to behaviour that incites hatred or ridicules another but to open the prohibition of offence to things like religious or political belief or sexual orientation is a threat to freedom of speech. Who doesn’t get offended or insulted at times by others’ differences of opinion?” Mr Brown said.

“In a country like Australia which prides itself on tolerance in a multicultural society, these changes would only undermine tolerance and robust political debate would be inhibited.

“We are concerned about the implications to freedom of speech, conscience and religion. Especially when Tasmania is set to debate numerous social issues which bring out diverse opinion and with it a potential to offend.

“Surely the government has been watching the costly and embarrassing vexatious cases in other jurisdictions like Victoria with similar laws.

“Are we going to see those who, for religious or non-religious reasons, have legitimate objections to same-sex marriage prohibited from participating in public debate because someone might take offence?

“Will people who stand up for the rights of children to have both a mum and dad be legally sanctioned because it offends some people who believe gender is not important in parenting?

“Will we see, as we saw in Victoria under its farcical religious vilification laws, costly and drawn out legal proceedings as a result of dubious complaints?

“Squashing healthy debate does not show respect and tolerance. Some would say it in fact fuels discrimination - against those who think differently. Serious thought needs to be given to how the changes proposed might affect Tasmanian society as a whole – for better or for worse,” Mr Brown said.