Lyle Shelton says freedom of speech protections needed for religious belief

Lyle Shelton has appeared at the Australian senate inquiry into the Religious Discrimination Bill saying his current legal battle in Queensland is proof a Religious Discrimination Bill is needed.

Shelton appeared at the session being held by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee alongside representatives from the Australian Christian Lobby, The Human Rights Law Alliance, Freedom for Faith and The Institute for Civil Society. Shelton appeared in a personal capacity and not in relation to any organisation he is involved in.

Prior to speaking at the inquiry the committee chair, Liberal senator Sarah Henderson, advised Shelton that she was aware of the legal proceedings he’s a party to in Queensland and asked him not to make any adverse reflections in relation to the matter.

“I’m being sued by two LGBTIQ+ drags queens for saying they are dangerous role models for children, my religious beliefs motivated me to speak up after a Drag Queen Story Time in a public library. One drag queen was a woman identifying as a man, the other a man identifying as a woman.

“The woman was crowd funding on Facebook to have her breasts cut off , the man’s drag name referenced a homosexual sex act. After writing a blog about the danger of these role models to children I was sued under Queensland’s vilification laws.”

Committee chair Sarah Henderson interjected and reminded Shelton that she had just asked him not to make adverse reflections on the people involved in the legal proceedings that were underway. Shelton told the committee chair he disagreed and believed he was just stating facts.

Senator Henderson said in her view he was making adverse reflections and repeated her request for his remarks not to be specific to the the current proceedings before the tribunal in Queensland.

Shelton said his case was an example of deficiencies within the law and Christian views needed greater protections.

“The case so far as cost me $70,000 in legal fees and almost two years of angst. Despite warnings during the marriage plebiscite that this would happen, the bill before you today does not protect those who are speaking up to protect children.” Shelton said.

While he sat before the panel for close to an hour, the committee asked Shelton little in the remainder of the session.

In response to a question from Senator Raff Ciccone on what could be done to make the bill more effective, Shelton said the leaders of the ‘Yes’ campaign for marriage equality had made a promise to the Australian people that was not being upheld, and that had spurred the need for additional protections for people of faith.

“There’s a big gap in terms of fulfilling the promises that were made by the leaders of the campaign to change the definition of marriage, that no-one else’s freedom of speech would be affected and here we are just a few years down the track and you can’t have a debate about gender fluidity and what’s appropriate for children, without being sued and being taken through various bodies like the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.”

Shelton said he would like to see the bill contain additional protections for freedom of speech that are based on religious belief.

“The Christian religion has a belief in gender that accords with the scientific belief that genders are binary, and if we can’t talk about that in terms of the protection of children, if that’s not protected by this bill, then I think there is a real problem.”

The inquiry continues on Friday with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Just.Equal and Equality Australia, Equality Tasmania, the Youth Pride Network, Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council, the Human Rights Commission and the AFAO among those scheduled to appear.

OIP Staff

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