No to Religious Discrimination Anywhere – Especially in School

By Laura Panetta

I think everyone has heard this saying:

“If you haven’t got anything good to say, don’t say it at all.”

But now the Australian Government is saying something else:

“Even if you don’t have anything good to say, you can say it as long as it is because of your religious beliefs.”

I go to church sometimes and I try to be good to other people.  I have friends who have different religions and I think most of them teach that it’s important to do what is right and that usually is about how you treat other people.

But some people say it is their religion to hate other people and to exclude other people.  I’m sorry but that’s not a good way to be, no matter who taught them to think that.

Being allowed to say mean things to another person because of “religious beliefs” is like inviting people to be mean because they can be mean.

The Australian Government want to pass a new law that says in its summary of the Bill that a person can discriminate against someone if they are expressing their ‘religious beliefs’ and what they say is not ‘malicious’ and doesn’t ‘threaten’, ‘seriously intimidate’ or ‘vilify’ that other person.

That’s a lot of words that mean that if what a person says is just plain mean, nasty, humiliating or embarrassing, then that is “OK’.  And it doesn’t even matter that a person could say something like that to a child!

My little brother Julius has Down syndrome.  There are people who believe that Down syndrome and other disabilities are caused by the Devil, as punishment by God or as Karma for their past life.  Some people even try to cure disability by prayers and religious ceremonies.

What this shows is that this new law will hurt people with disability because some religious beliefs hurt people with disability.

I don’t think anyone should be able to treat or talk about my brother in a mean or humiliating way because of their ‘religious beliefs’ or for any other reason at all.

Kids with disability already have a really hard time, sometimes they are not welcome and are the most bullied people in our schools.  Why would we make a new law that allows teachers, parents and other students to say things in school that makes it even harder for kids with disability to feel accepted, valued and included?

Why should a teacher, a parent or another student be able to say things that are mean, nasty, humiliating or embarrassing to a student with disability because of their ‘religious beliefs’.  Isn’t this just another form of bullying?

Why should someone’s ‘religious beliefs’ be allowed to be used to affect another person’s human right to learn with dignity?

Our human rights – including the human rights of people with disability to an inclusive education – should not come second to any religion.

Maybe its time to register a new world religion – the religion of respect, inclusion and human rights!

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