Saturday, 6 July 2013

Another Step Closer To Orwell's World

George Orwell made famous his parody of a totalitarian state with this slogan:

"War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength."

I had a good chuckle over it when I read it years ago, thinking it to be ridiculous and over-the-top. I thought Orwell was merely exaggerating to make a point.

Unfortunately, it was no exaggeration. Thanks to the War on Terror, we now have an Orwellian slogan for our own age: "Violation of Privacy is Security". It's amazing how many people have bought into this lie.

Here comes another one. The state of New South Wales in Australia has an anti-discrimination law that makes it unlawful for education authorities to refuse admission to, or expel, a student for being gay, lesbian or transgender. Significantly, private schools and colleges are explicitly exempt from this law. Now, there are private schools and private schools, but the ones that are most relevant when talking about discrimination against LGBT people are religious schools, because no other schools have an ideological opposition to differentness in sexual orientation.

Here's what is breathtaking about this drama. When the exemption loophole is sought to be eliminated, Christian schools have opposed it on the grounds that their freedom of religion is being violated!

Most private schools have a religious ethos, they stand for something, and if these exemptions were removed that would break down the ability of these schools to maintain whatever their particular ethos is. - Laurie Scandrett, chief executive of the Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation
In other words, "our religion is bigoted and demonises fellow human beings, but if you try to get us to be civilised, that is a violation of our freedom to discriminate against people and harass them".

The words in which this argument is couched sound reasonable. Quoting from the article, "Ian Baker, acting executive director of the NSW Catholic Education Commission, said the fact that so few, if any, cases of students being expelled were widely known was testament to the fact schools tended to treat such students with sensitivity." But the counter-arguments are telling: "Justin Koonin, from the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said he questioned why schools wanted the laws if they did not use them. ''It's not just that the student can be expelled, they can be discriminated against within the school environment, and the school doesn't have to do anything about it.'' "

This chutzpah on the part of organised religion astonishes me. Can't they hear their own hypocrisy and bigotry coming through in what they're saying?

I'm not terribly worried, though, because these people are on the losing side of history. The churches will lose the argument, because society is already beginning to accept LGBT people as equal human beings, disregarding the teachings of organised religion on what constitutes acceptable sexual behaviour. 

In the meantime, George Orwell might be interested to know that we now have a second slogan for our time: "Discrimination is Freedom of Religion".

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