Australia’s bishops have been drawn into a national test case for freedom of religion and speech after Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commission found they have a case to answer by distributing a booklet supporting traditional marriage.
- The Australian
The commission has signalled a momentous test case will be held, with a hearing in Tasmania, because of the issues of “public importance” in the case.
The Church has argued that it had no intention to cause offence but was exercising its freedom of speech and religion before the promised plebiscite on same-sex marriage after the next election.
The Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, was initially singled out in a complaint by transgender Greens political candidate Martine Delaney that she felt humiliated and that he had breached the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act by circulating a booklet to the parents of Catholic school students called “Don’t mess with Marriage.”
Ms Delaney had also complained about the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, which represents all bishops in Australia, which had distributed the booklet around the nation.
Last night the Tasmanian commission cited the ACBC as the prime mover in the booklet and Archbishop Porteous as the second target.
The notification of the upholding of the complaint said that under the Tasmanian Act there was a possible breach by “conduct that is offensive, intimidating, insulting or ridiculing of Ms Delaney and the class of same-sex attracted people.”
Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks said the matter should be considered and that conciliation was “unlikely” to solve the issue because “it raises issues of public importance.”
The commission said if conciliation does not succeed then the Tasmanian tribunal will hold a hearing.
The ACBC and Archbishop Porteous have been given 21 days to respond to the commission’s finding and to decide on whether to seek conciliation.
Archbishop Porteous last night said he did not wish to comment “too widely” on the issue because of the legal nature of the complaint but said he would try to reconcile with Ms Delaney.
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