By James Tillman

CANBERRA, November 20, 2009 ( —In a speech delivered to the Australian Christian Lobby on Friday, November 20th, Cardinal George Pell spelled out how the modern scramble to prohibit discrimination against people based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” leads to “anti-discrimination laws which do not respect fundamental human rights such as freedom of religion and conscience.”

Cardinal Pell opened by discussing one instance of the problem: the current attitude of the Australian Human Rights Commission (HRC).  A recent paper delivered by senior members of the HRC, he said, begins with the words: “The compatibility of religious freedom with human rights is the subject of the most comprehensive study ever undertaken in Australia in this area.”

“Let us spell this out,” said the Cardinal. “The clear meaning of these words is that religious freedom is not a human right and may not be compatible with human rights.”

The same paper, he continued, suggests that the interaction of religious groups in the public sphere ought to be moderated by “the hand of government, even if gentle and gloved.”

“No doubt we are to be reassured by the prospect of a nanny state, rather than the jack-boot,” Cardinal Pell said.  But all of this, he continued, “simply underscores the need for a different sort of inquiry; not into whether religious freedom is compatible with human rights, but into whether this enquiry of the Human Rights Commission is compatible with human rights.”

The problem for the HRC, he said, is that “rights to life, to marriage, to family; the recognition of the family based on marriage as the fundamental unit of society; the rights of parents to determine the moral and religious education of their children; and the rights to freedom of religion, belief, and conscience, are all recognized by the major international human rights agreements.”

But such rights “stand squarely in the road of the radical autonomy project which the extreme left, the anti-religious left is pushing.”

“This is the main reason why these inconvenient rights have been read-down, reinterpreted and displaced by other, newer 'rights' such as those to abortion, euthanasia, anti-discrimination and same-sex marriage.”

Thus, he said, one finds incidents like the recent case regarding what happened after Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge issued a statement opposing same-sex civil unions.

“In doing so the archbishop was defending the national law of the land on marriage,” Cardinal Pell said, “and defending the role of mothers and fathers.”

But his statement incited the Human Rights Commissioner to describe his statement as “getting very close to homophobia.”  “People need to be careful they're not getting to the point of inciting hatred or contempt for gay people,” she continued.

Worse cases might be cited wherein Christians have been fined for writing or acting in accord with their beliefs in other countries.

In this case, Cardinal Pell said that “the Commissioner has gone too far in this attempt to intimidate, to silence debate from Christians or indeed any person who, as in this case, merely point out the natural advantages and preeminence of heterosexual marriage for society.”

And so, he continued, Christians ought to oppose so-called anti-discrimination laws that inhibit the exercise of religion.

“Anti-discrimination laws which do not respect fundamental human rights such as freedom of religion and conscience, are unjust laws,” he said.

“We should not be afraid to say this. We have a right to foster religious communities. Those who want to cancel out this right need to show why this right should be removed.”

Nevertheless, he said that public policy both in Australia and in other nations has taken a different course.

“Anti-discrimination has become an official priority of public policy in the UK,” Cardinal Pell said, “with serious consequences for the rights of Christians as people who are held to be inherently 'discriminatory.'”

Similarly, in the United States if “courts and governments were to decide that the general recognition and acceptance of same-sex marriage should be an important principle of public policy, the consequences for religious freedom could be enormous.”

“Marriage preparation, relationship counselling, decisions about medical treatment by next of kin, school enrolments, sex and relationship education in secondary schools, the hire of parish, school and church facilities for functions and events, and arrangements for married couples in emergency housing, retreat, conference and aged care centres are only the most obvious examples of where Christian beliefs about marriage could collide with public policy on anti-discrimination which prioritises the equal treatment of same-sex marriage.”

“These great matters must be decided politically and we should not let our minority opponents shuffle them off to the courts, much less to Commissions.”

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