Guest: Rev Ashley Saunders, National Director of FamilyVoice Australia
Here are some of the headlines:
Christian lobby FamilyVoice calls for exemption to discriminate against mentally ill
Church group FamilyVoice in bid to discriminate against people with disabilities because mental illness could ‘ruin sacred space’
Christian group wants to ban LGBTI people from its ‘sacred’ services
Christian group slammed for proposal to ban disabled priest from church leadership
Australian church wants to ban gay, transgender and people with disabilities
Really? is that true? lets find out. To be clear, I am the NSW and ACT State Director for FamilyVoice Australia, and I got the shock of my life to hear that the organisation I belong to apparently had such a view. Here is the quote from the submission in question that has caused such a stir:
“For very good reasons, a religion may not wish to engage a person who has a mental illness and displays disturbed behaviour,”
“Such behaviour would adversely affect a church service, which is sacred in nature.”
The submission in question:
FamilyVoice Australia response to media reports on FamilyVoice’s stance on the Disability Discrimination Act:
We do not advocate discrimination against persons on the basis of their mental or physical health.
We have absolutely no desire to exclude disabled persons from attending a religious service.
“FamilyVoice Australia does not advocate discrimination against persons on the basis of their mental or physical health, despite the implication of news reports today,” FamilyVoice National Director Ashley Saunders told media today.
“Our submission did not say we should be able to discriminate with a blank canvas in areas of mental disability,” Rev Saunders said.
“It is appropriate in some circumstances to discriminate justifiably where the person is involved in disturbed behaviour that is contrary to the best interests of the organisation.
“Nowhere does the submission say that we don’t want people with disturbed behaviour to be part of a church.
“What we have said is that church organisations should be able, in making decisions about employment and who leads the service, it is entirely appropriate that people who fulfil those roles not be people who manifest disturbed behaviour.
“I hasten to point out that our staff members have a very long and positive association with people who have quite serious mental health challenges.”
“I have suffered from depression, and took more than year off work to recover, so I am the last person to not support those with disability.”
We support the right of religious organisations to set an appropriate behavioural standard for a position of leadership, including employees or volunteers.
Some of the news stories: