Monday, January 14, 2013

Anti-Discrimination Bill a Bigots' Carte blanche?


There was an interesting piece in The Age by David Marr, one of the few journalists for whom I do have some respect. He calls the new legislation being put forward in Parliament a bill for bigots and decries the ramping up of the power of the religious leaders to hire or fire who they see fit in schools and other institutions run by religious organisations.

We have also a very interesting article by Paul Sheehan
on the same bill.

The sad thing is while I respect the right of religious organisations and their administrators to hire and fire who they wish, we also would hope there is a curtailing of the superiority complex of those who believe in their version of G-D, Allah or Buddha or Krisna or who ever they believe is the driving deity behind the world's smooth running. By curtailing of the superiority complex I mean that you can believe in  G-D or a divine force and have your own rituals and theories etc but you should not bag the religious rites of others and feel you have a right to exterminate or convert other religions. My G-D is quite a magnanimous  fellow and accepts every individual as worthy of existance, after all He is their Creator so they must have value. It is their behaviour and the way they act towards others that might be questionable at times.
It is the right of any religious organisation to hire and fire people who fit into the scheme of their beliefs and act according to their religious doctrines. A Catholic school or a Christian school would probably have real problems hiring someone like me who is an observant Jewess not only because of my beliefs, but because the practice of my religion would preclude activities that they might find essential to the education that they are giving their students and especially activities that they might want for their students on weekends which a fellow Christian teacher would be happy to bring their child or children along to join in. I would most definitely not, as I would be observing our Shabbat and would find my beliefs and theirs in conflict. I did when I was in High School at a Presbyterian Ladies College in Queensland and I am a lot more set in my ways now then I was then. I suffered Christian indoctrination until I was allowed to go to the library and read in my last senior years there at that school. It was not a protest or even a revolt. It was just that I was so bored and disinterested in this lone victim of the Roman's persecution of the Jews of Judea and Samaria, because the stories of the New Testament were in conflict and honestly he was one of thousands of Jewish martyrs. They forget that the guy was an orthodox Jew. Just as an aside, I listened to Rabbi Feitel Levin last night on invitro fertilisation and learnt that he was probably not considered a mamzer or bastard under Jewish law. He was the product of rape by a Roman soldier. His mother Miriam was betrothed and after the rape she was pregnant and that was the reason that Josef apparently took her to Beth Lechem to have the baby.  If the baby had been a product of rape by another Jew then there could have been the issue of him being a Mamzer. I did not know that a child that may have been fathered through an act of forced intercourse with a non Jew is not a mamzer. It would have meant that many of those born to Jewish brides who were forced to co habit with the medieval lords before or on their wedding nights (as was the rather hideous practice for not only Jews, but also the peasants in the Dark Ages) and who fell pregnant, their children were not considered mamzerim, but I guess there would have been a whole lot of other issues to contend with and not only how they were called to the Torah and their status obviously if the husband was a Cohen or Levi.  Apparently the child of a non Jew to a married woman is not a mamzer. That is a Jewish woman married but not divorced from her Jewish husband, if she has a child to a non Jew, then it is a Jew and not a mamzer.
Anyway, let's focus on the issue at hand which is the fact that this bill will set boundaries on hate speech and other examples of discrimination becoming par for course. However I can see it being misused and used to batter those of little faith into submission.
Gays and lesbians do choose their lifestyle and unfortunately their lifestyle is in conflict with many religious teachings. Would I want to hire a gay or homosexual English teacher or History or Art teacher for a school I ran? Probably not. I will be honest.
However would I hire a gay or lesbian office manager, artist or painter or sales assistant or copywriter or editor or print maker or IT expert? Yes, I would. What is the difference?
If I am in an education setting and the audience is young and impressionable students, I would not be happy with a homosexual teacher pushing his or her lifestyle agenda onto students. Teachers' private lives are not the business of students and one of the things I found most obnoxious about both Narrandera and Deniliquin was the attempt by students to stick their noses into your private life or to question you or to make assumptions about your private life. Sort of like living in a fish bowl. If the teacher was a discrete and honest person then, I guess you would not have a problem.
Unfortunately, I am a single parent. Not by choice. However it is the right of any institution - an educational institution to hire only either married teachers or single teachers, not single parents. I understand why. The stress of being a single parent combined with the stress of full time teaching, even if you have a supportive family would be horrendous. When you have a child with a disability in learning and no family support, working full time is impossible. Also you do not want to have a single parent in a school, because if your child gets sick, you are the one who takes the day off to spend it looking after him. There is no back up. That is why single parents are not a good bet for employment. We are the ones who most need employment because as in my case, we are the sole breadwinners and as anyone who has tried to live on Newstart will tell you, it is nearly impossible as a single person. Try it for size as a single mother or father with one child or even with two or three kids. It is simply horrendous.
No single parents are single parents by choice, I can tell you that now. However, we struggle and do the best we can to educate our kids and care for them as much as any family with two parents do. Some single parents do have the back up of grandparents and aunts and uncles or cousins, but others do not. We then thank G-D for friends and colleagues who step into the role of extended family members for the child or children.
We should be allowed to discriminate positively and choose for our children the education we want, the friends we want and most of all be able to surround them with like minded co-religionists who espouse the values we hold dear.
Lastly by the same token, we need to have respect for differing beliefs, so long as those beliefs are NOT in and of themselves, HARMFUL OR DEROGATORY  towards others who are different.
Judaism is very careful about respecting others and respecting the rights of both Jews and Non Jews.  Once you understand the laws and rulings of some of Jewish Law or halacha you start to understand the complexity and the marvellous depth of questioning and answering that our rabbonim must use to approach even very mundane issues in Jewish life and the way we conduct ourselves. It is a process of continual learning and exploration of issues for thousands of years.

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