PFLAG questions if religious freedom review has the right expertise

Concern that the government’s review into religious freedom may be used to wind back long established anti-discrimination laws is growing, but little is known about what occurs inside the review panel’s secret consultation sessions.

The Turnbull government’s review in religious freedom visited Perth earlier this week holding closed-door sessions that are not being recorded.

PFLAG Perth were on of the groups that were invited to speak to the review panel headed by former Howard government minister Phillip Ruddock, and they’ve raised concern about some of the comments and claims put forward during their session.

Michele Davis from PFLAG has described the sessions as being “polite and respectful” but said she was worried about the level of knowledge the panel had about LGBTI mental health issues.

During the session PFLAG were challenged about how common it is for a student to experience same-sex attraction, and how common it was for LGBTIQ+ students to experience negative mental health outcomes.

The panel also purportedly highlighted that while churches and religious organisations had created schools and hospitals the LGBTIQ community had not created their own institutions. The Mums from PFLAG noted that since being homosexual was until quite recently illegal, churches had enjoyed quite a head start.

The PFLAG representatives were also quizzed about how often they encountered stories of teenagers thinking they were gay but then later realising they were actually heterosexual. PFLAG reported it was not a phenomena they had personally come across.

Davis said Philip Ruddock often began his queries with the phrase “let me be a little bit mischievous here” before asking provocative questions.

Ruddock has spoken out about his questions telling Junkee that “Asking questions of stakeholders should not be taken as implying a particular view or conclusion.”

It’s not known which groups are speaking to the panel as the list of attendees is being kept secret, but the Prime Minister’s Office has indicated a full list of attendees will be included in the final report.

The review into the issue of religious freedom was put forward by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during the final days of the debate over allow marriage equality. Many have seen it as an attempt to pacify conservative members of the government.

OIP Staff

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