Why Exemptions only for the Religious?

The debate over whether or not to legalise same-sex “marriage” is predictably being portrayed as a tug-o-war between the purveyors of “freedom” on one side and the so-called “religious right” on the other. This has been reinforced by the militant and vociferous “LGBT” lobby in its recent attacks against opponents of the proposed law reforms, who have suffered doxxing and boycott campaigns for merely stating dissenting views. Those views are mostly based on some religious based conscientious objection. Proponents of the laws seem happy to allow the debate to be framed this way for two very good reasons:

♦ The portrayal allows those who are cynically exploiting the public’s natural inclusive and liberal attitudes to provide popular support for programmes that may have dark ulterior motives. An obvious example has been the the Victorian “Safe Schools” and “anti-bullying” controversies, which were initially pushed under the banner of fairness and wrapped in egalitarian rhetoric, but which have been exposed as nefarious programmes of ideological indoctrination (and consequentially done far more damage to the “cause” of same-sex “marriage” than conservative opponents to the proposed reform).

♦ It also allows the opponents of same-sex “marriage” to be libelously portrayed as motivated by sectional or sectarian religious interests only, and therefore makes the opposition appear anachronistic, irrational, superstitious and on the “wrong side of history”. Many on the so-called “religious right” appear to either embrace the stereotype or have shown remarkable ineptitude in dealing with such portrayals.

The fact of the matter is that the marriage and the traditional family paradigm that is at the heart of Christianity, actually predates it. The model of family, being one man and one woman, is something that has been based in law and custom among many cultures that do not share the explicitly Christian religious outlook. For example, Buddhist teaching is far more doctrinally severe concerning sexual morality than the Catholic Church’s theology of the body, yet Buddhism receives very little (if any) attention in the debate on sexual morality today among progressives who would otherwise willingly identify with Eastern religious traditions as a thumb in the eye of the West’s own religious heritage.

Indeed – and more to the point of this article – many secular people, as well as those who are explicitly atheistic, may intuitively feel that the best way to bring a child into the world is in precisely this “old fashioned” (i.e. tried-&-true) family/marriage model. This is because the traditional model is quite frankly an expression of natural law applied to human relations, and specifically applied to the individual relationship between men and women living together in society. This paradigm is simply an expression of reality, and its reinforcement in law it is no more or less a form of “institutional” or “structural” “discrimination” than gravity.

But – the objection naturally is raised – not all cultures are monogamous and same-sex relationships have been recorded in history for literally millennia. That is true, but such fatuous objections ignore the second major reason why one-man and one-woman family arrangements are a social structure that ought to be protected and encouraged by secular law and government: the formation and proliferation of monogamous relationships has provided an incentive for the largest number of both men and women to invest in each other, and the future (through child raising). In other words, the traditional model of family and marriage is one of the major driving forces behind the process of civilisation because it provides an incentive to both men and women to work together for a common goal while also creating a framework within which their energies and labour are motivated towards the collective public good in the long term.

Social acceptance of polygamous and in-fecund relationships not only do not share this civilising quality, but they damage the culture that is essential for the creation and maintenance of the Western societies that we all live in and draw benefit from. This is not an argument to condemn and vilify family structures that through some misfortune do not or cannot live up to the optimal standard: a civilised society will naturally have systems in place to help people who find themselves in these situations. But such a society will not willingly contribute, thorough policy and law, to the proliferation of that which is ultimately corrosive to the social fabric. What is the point in enjoying the benefits of a culture, or living of the dividend of a civilisation, while actively undermining it? Such a course of action seems illogical at best and suicidal at worst – is it really the path that a “progressive” society wants to take as it moves into an uncertain future?

Notice that this can be argued without reference to religion. While religion offers a rich repository of transcendent and eternal truths about the human condition (a topic that has been addressed repeatedly at SydneyTrads) the point that has not been emphasised often enough is that even people of no religious faith can have reasoned and rational objections to the proposal to redefine marriage and family or abolish perennial institutions of intrinsic social value. When legislators and other media talking-heads try to placate the two sides of this dispute by proposing religious exemptions to “discrimination law”, they do an injustice to people who have sincere albeit nonreligious objections to leftist social engineering.

Why aren’t secularists, agnostics or people of no particular faith afforded the same level of protection on the grounds of conscientious objection? It seems that they are the voices missing from this debate, and their silence has impoverished the discussion on one of the most important legal reforms that Australia will encounter since Federation: a reform that will fundamentally redefine the core constituent of society, and because that reform will be disingenuously couched in the rhetoric of civil liberties, one that will effectively make future dissent illegal.

– Cecil Lansdowne is a student of politics and a conservative grass-roots campaigner in the Sydney region.

SydneyTrads is the web page of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum: an association of young professionals who form part of the Australian independent right (also known as “non-aligned right”).

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