Friday, September 07, 2012

Jim Wallace - ACL

On 5 September, 2012, Jim Wallace, the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (a fundamentalist christian lobby group), said at a same sex marriage debate in Tasmania "I think we're going to owe smokers a big apology when the homosexual community's own statistics for its health - which it presents when it wants more money for health - are that is has higher rates of drug-taking, of suicide, it has the life of a male reduced by up to 20 years. The life of smokers is reduced by something like seven to 10 years and yet we tell all our kids at school they shouldn't smoke."

After this, he claimed that when the media released this quote - which he, of course, doesn't deny making - they have misrepresented him.  Now, "The Age" did headline their story on this issue "Smoking healthier than gay marriage" and had the following as their opening paragraph "The head of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Jim Wallace says smoking is healthier than the lifestyle that would be promoted by same-sex marriage."  Neither of these are written as a quote of what Jim Wallace said, they are a written summary or an outline of what he said.

The following afternoon, on 2GB's "Sydney Live" program with Ben Fordham, Jim Wallace says, when asked if he pleads guilty or not guilty, "Look, I plead not guilty to having said 'smoking is healthier than gay marriage' I mean that was a quote attributed to me in 'The Age' and I think that's the nub of the problem here..." I think Jim Wallace fails to see that the "nub of the problem" is terribly bigoted, irrelevant and misleading comparison he clearly made between the health risks of smoking (a choice people make themselves) with homosexuality (a choice people's PARENTS make through their genes - ie, this is not a choice people make themselves).

Now, to clarify Jim's comparison of smoking with homosexuality, he was interviewed on ABC News where he goes on to say "No, well what I'm saying is I'm comparing the packaging. I'm talking about the packaging and, ah, what I'm saying is that if packaging's important in how we actually present things to people then, ah, certainly the packaging of marriage and, ah, packaging particularly heterosexual lifestyle and homosexual lifestyle under it as one package, ah, is , I think, inappropriate ah in a number of areas and I spoke yesterday about a whole range of issues that come up here but one of those...".  And this is clarification?  In what way - I can't work it out.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, in response to the original comments, stated "I believe yesterday's comments by Jim Wallace were offensive. To compare the health effects of smoking cigarettes with the many struggles gay and lesbian Australians endure in contemporary society is heartless and wrong. Although everyone is entitled to their own view, these statements reiterated again today on behalf of ACL are totally unacceptable. In light of this, I believe my attendance at the conference would be inappropriate."

Does Jim Wallace not realise that his bigotry is unwarranted and unwanted?  Does he not realise that the likely cause of much of the damaging behavior that the homosexual community engages with is likely caused by the hatred and bigotry they are forced to endure on a daily basis?  As a straight man, I cannot personally understand exactly how the gay community must feel when subjected to constant bigotry by people like Jim Wallace and the ACL, however I can at least empathise with them and stand with them to fight for their rights to equality.  In February, 2012, a Galaxy Poll (on behalf of Australians for Marriage Equality) found that 62% of Australians polled supported gay marriage and that 52% of coalition voters want same-sex marriage reform.

Remember, too, that this is the same Jim Wallace that tweeted, on ANZAC Day, 2011, "Just hope that as we remember servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for – wasn't gay marriage and Islamic!"  So obviously, it isn't just "the gays" that Jim's opposed to - it is anyone who is different from him.

What we need is a secular government that is not influenced by the bigotry of a narrow-minded religious group.  I personally believe that anyone can choose what religious views they want to have, however they cannot expect to have their religious views imposed on the general population to restrict the freedoms and rights of others.  All people should be treated equally.

When Jim Wallace was asked why the ACL invited the Prime Minister to their conference, he replied with "Yeah, well, the Prime Minister was going to speak on the theme of the conference which was 'Religious Freedom'. Ah, I was quite interested to hear do that, she has always been a keen supporter of religious freedom and, ah, religious freedom is, ah, under threat around the world particularly for minorities around the world. Ah, it is an issue in Australia with the review of the Federal anti-discrimination laws at the moment and once again, the same people who have made this a problem today are trying to remove the exemptions and exceptions that churches and people of faith, ah, enjoy to, ah, for freedom of religion.  Because, remember that freedom of religion is a Human Right."

Hang on, so Jim Wallace who correctly states that the freedom of religion is a Human Right (Article 18 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), wants religious groups to be exempted from anti-discrimination laws when the same Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Article 1, states "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights".  So he wants to have different rights - basically, the ability to ignore anti-discrimination laws - from non-religious groups.  And how is that treating everyone equally and fairly?  Article 2 states "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status" - that doesn't seem to say, to me at least, that a religious group should be allowed to restrict or remove the rights of people not of their particular faith.

Now, I respect Jim Wallace's right to free speech and I completely believe he has a right to his opinion, no matter how bigoted that opinion may be, but I also believe that everyone has a right to be treated fairly and equally and I for one do not want to see the limitation of the rights of a sector of our community because of someone's personal religious beliefs.  I think that is morally wrong.


The Outspoken Wookie

1 comment:

Kellie @ Delightfully Ludicrous said...

I believe in freedom of speech too. He had the right to say those things, and I have the right to say I think he's an idiot who needs to remove his head from his backside. But that's just me.