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“(Religious freedom is of) fundamental importance in any democracy… (it is) of great concern to many Australians that this right is being denied and vilified.”
(Glenn Davies, Archbishop of Sydney, 25 Jun, 2019)
“the fact is, condemning gays to hell is vilification. These Christians… are willing to burn up huge amounts of political capital to keep and, if possible extend, their power to punish homosexuals…”
(David Marr, The Guardian, 27 Jun, 2019)
At time of writing, Australia is in the midst of a heated public debate on the issue of religious freedom. It was sparked when Australian Rugby Union player Israel Folau remarked on popular social media platform Instagram in early April 2019 that homosexuals, atheists, drunkards, thieves, adulterers and fornicators will go to Hell if they don’t repent for their sins, adding that Jesus Christ loves them. Rugby Australia - the governing body and parent company of the popular multi-million dollar sport - announced later that same afternoon that the content of this social media post was “unacceptable” and that “it does not represent the values of the sport and is disrespectful to members of the rugby community” adding that the “Rugby Australia integrity unit” was now engaged on the matter (ACL, 2019). Speculation abounded that the post, and its posting, was in violation of Folau’s contract with Rugby Australia though no-one in the media or public sphere had read the actual contract bar the signatory parties. By early May 2019, Rugby Australia decreed that the social media post - and Folau’s action in disseminating it - was in “high level” violation of Folau’s employment contract code of conduct and terminated his four million dollar contract. Initially Folau accepted the decision.
In mid June 2019, Folau, supported by the Australian Christian Lobby [ACL], subsequently decided to appeal the case and launched a Go Fund Me campaign to raise three million dollars to fund his legal bid (despite the fact that he was - and is - a multi-millionaire himself). After public protest over this misuse of the crowd-funding platform, Go Fund Me investigated the matter and concluded that the campaign violated their terms of service - which prohibit raising legal funds for causes which promote intolerance and discrimination - promptly removing the campaign and pledging to refund existing backers’ contributions of a total over $750,000 raised in a mere few days. The ACL and Folau duly issued a statement saying that he was being discriminated against on the basis of his religion - Christianity - further implying that there was a campaign of discrimination against him. The ACL immediately struck back by launching their own crowd-finding campaign, which to date has donations approaching nearly AU$1 million, and began disseminating media messages that Christianity was under attack in Australia, which had just the previous year legalized same-sex marriage against the objections, arguments and obfuscations of the ACL and their political supporters in, primarily, the Australian Liberal Party. This article / book is a chronological account of the manufacture of a contemporary “moral panic” surrounding freedom of religion, freedom of speech and religious discrimination in contemporary Australia, current at time of writing.