Around the world, particularly in places where same-sex marriage has been achieved, the defence of “freedom of religious expression” is being vigorously pursued.
In Australia, this is playing out in the case of rugby player, Israel Folau who has twice posted to Instagram messages that explicitly say that homosexuals will burn in hell. There has been public outcry and his current contract with Rugby Australia is under review as he has been found to have breached code of conduct rules.
Into the fray has stepped shock-jock and conservative commentator Alan Jones to defend Folau’s right to express his religious views. He has described the backlash as “Orwellian” and wonders how the nation has arrived at this low point.
The debate has raged across all media, old and new.
But for me, the most important aspect of this conversation has been overlooked, and this is it: people who are religious choose to be religious. Their beliefs are a choice they have made.
Sexuality is not a choice.
That distinction is very important because what we are seeing is one person’s chosen beliefs being forcefully, aggressively imposed against a whole class of people who have had no choice but to be who they naturally are.
That is the most profound injustice here.
Alan Jones claims that “freedom of religion” is being violated when, in fact, it is a chosen and hateful opinion that is being expressed. No one should have the right to express hateful violence against another.
We, the LGBTIQ individuals of this world, have only just, after centuries of oppression, won our right to speak, to our own self-expression, to even exist. Our liberation is so new that there are living elders among us who experienced this violent oppression just decades ago. In many countries around the world we are still oppressed, persecuted, tortured and executed.
And let’s not forget who was responsible for that oppression. Religions. Religions of all persuasions. They burnt us at the stake, they stoned us to death, they silenced us, made us invisible, imposed celibacy upon us, ridiculed us, labelled us paedophiles, they filled us with self-hate. They are still doing this!
It is an insult beyond imagining, beyond rationality, to suggest that we are now curtailing religious freedom.
Folau and his supporters have claimed, repeatedly, that his words were “said with love”. I call BS. Are they so tone deaf they don’t see that “burn in hell” is hateful? Hurtful? Damaging?
One man who knows this well is Ian Roberts, a rugby legend, not just for his skill on the field but as the first man to be openly gay while still playing professionally. He has publicly rebuked Folau, reminding him in no uncertain terms that gay kids and the vulnerable in our community are killing themselves. Folau’s words speak not of love but of fear, condemnation and abandonment.
This so-called religious freedom is really just a plea to be allowed to continue to discriminate, to oppress, to destroy. Yes, Israel, you and your kind and your chosen beliefs have been free to persecute us for centuries and now, as rational voices are saying “enough”, you don’t like it.
You have the right to believe what you believe. You have the right to express that. You don’t have the right to persecute with hatefulness. Like racism, homophobia is not something a civil society can allow.
So, Israel Folau and Alan Jones – if you want to be homophobes, go ahead. Let’s see your true colours. But don’t you dare cry “unfair” when the umpire says you have fouled.