Section 116 of the Constitution of Australia states:
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
This section therefore has four themes. They are:
The federal government cannot:
- pass any law to establish a religion
- pass any law to impose any religious observance
- pass any law to prohibit the free exercise of any religion
- impose a religious test as qualification for any office.
This section is based on similar provisions in the United States Constitution, but is more narrowly drafted than the latter. In addition, this section only applies to the Federal Government. Tasmania is the only state to have similar religious freedoms in its Constitution.
So what are the religious right wing nut jobs whining about in reference to the same-sex marriage legislation? It is not about same-sex marriage impinging on their personal practice of their religion. They seem to be concerned mostly about whether ministers of religion would be obliged to officiate at same-sex marriages, whether bakers and florists can deny to provide their wares for a same-sex marriage, and whether religious parents should be able to remove their children from classes where same-sex marriage is mentioned in any way favourably. This is perhaps best articulated by Andrew Hastie, the creationist Member of Parliament from Western Australia. He asked: “will parents and faith-based schools be able to opt out of state or territory mandated curriculum that runs contrary to their moral and religious convictions?”. He added: “I’m of the view parents and faith-based schools should have that protection, particularly as it relates to their views on marriage.”2
Although the religious right wing nut jobs are always obsessed with sex, as was clear from the ‘No’ campaign deflections, in which they talked about radical sex education and programs designed to protect LGBTQI people from bullying, as if these were actually part of the same-sex marriage ‘debate’3.
I may be old, and have gone to a public school, but I cannot recall ever having any lessons regarding sex and marriage. There was a ‘father and son’ night where the geometry and physiology of it all was elaborated. Further details were explained by my father at home. I thought that was what parents did. Maybe some of the religious are simply too embarrassed to explain such things to their children, fearfully obsessed as they are with anything to do with sex. Maybe the religious still want to be able to tell their children that ‘those people’, the gays, are lesser somehow, and do not deserve to be treated the same as ‘us’. Maybe the religious just want to be able to indoctrinate their children at school as well as at home. It’s just what we need, another generation of bigots.