Christian group wants law that lets them discriminate against disabled people

·Freelance Writer

A Christian group in Australia is urging the government to change a law enabling them to discriminate against people suffering from disabilities.

FamilyVoice, a national Christian organisation based in Adelaide, want the Disability Discrimination Act changed as they believe church services could be disrupted by people with mental illnesses.

The group argues that a religious exemption is needed in the act to protect the “sacred” nature of church services.

A submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry on freedom of belief read: “For very good reasons a religion may not wish to engage a person who has a mental illness and displays disturbed behaviour.

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“Such behaviour would adversely affect a church service, which is sacred in nature.

“A simple provision should be added for an exemption from the act for persons… whose conscientious beliefs do not allow them to comply.”

Defending the submission, FamilyVoice national director Reverend Ashley Saunders (above) refused to accept that the group did not want to support people with mental illness or disability.

FamilyVoice believe mentally ill people could disturb church services (Wikipedia/stock photo)
FamilyVoice believe mentally ill people could disturb church services (Wikipedia/stock photo)

He added: “Our submission did not say we should be able to discriminate with a blank canvas in areas of mental disability.

“It is appropriate in some circumstances to discriminate justifiably where the person is involved in disturbed behaviour that is contrary to the best interests of the organisation.

“Nowhere does the submission say that we don’t want people with disturbed behaviour to be part of a church.

“What we have said is that church organisations should be able, in making decisions about employment, who leads the service, it is entirely appropriate that people who fulfil those roles not be people who manifest disturbed behaviour.”

South Australian Dignity Party MLC Kelly Vincent described the group’s submission as “cruel”.

He said: “I think this is not only incredibly shaky legal ground, it is also very cruel and ignorant.

“It sends a very dangerous stereotype that all people with mental illness exhibit these behaviours, are dangerous somehow or want to interrupt services.

“Everyone knows that Jesus was seen as a friend of the underdog and protector of the underprivileged, so I think this is a very cruel and hypocritical move.”

FamilyVoice are also opposed to issues including same-sex marriage and abortion.

Top pic: Supplied

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