Our LGBTI rights statement 'A Univeral Statement of Marriage Equality from the Zen School in Australia' is being distributed. Our timing turns out to serendipitous, because the Senate has launched an inquiry into a new marriage bill. The basis for terms of reference is the four bills that would have been presented in the thankfully dead referendum. As it is it turns out we are really perfectly placed to have a voice in the Senate inquiry, luckily we started looking into this and producing something just at the right time. I'm currently working with Marriage Equity on this, the other day we had an interfaith conference call with numerous pro-equality Christian and Jewish churches and charities and representatives from discussing issues. There were 18 people on the phonecall. We had representation from Anglican, Buddhist, Catholic, Inter-Christian, Jewish, MCC, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and Uniting Church groups. People called in from WA, VIC, QLD, NSW and the ACT. Gratefully Alex Greenwich and Tiernan Brady from the Human Rights Legal Council were present to answer questions about the Senate Inquiry and process. Some notes from our discussion: a) We welcome that there is a Bill introducing civil marriage equality in Australia. We support civil marriage equality because of our faith's belief in social justice. b) There is a need for us, as voices of faith, to raise awareness amongst the general public and politicians, that marriage equality is an issue about civil law and not religious law, and that both are separate institutions and that a change in one will not have detrimental effects in the other c) People of faith understand what it is like to be on the wrong side of marginalisation and discrimination over the world and throughout history. We are deeply conscious of the potential negative impact of any unwinding of existing anti-discrimination laws in Australia. We are truly concerned about any law that would chip away at the protections of our anti-discrimination law and the impact that that could have on people of faith in the future. d) Faith groups must have the right to marry couples, regardless of sexuality, gender identity or intersex status, according to their religious practices, if that is their faith groups' choice. e) Existing religious protections around the marriage act meet all the needs, in all scenarios, for religious celebrants carrying out religious marriage, free from interference. f) Every group is encouraged to put forward their own submission if they wish. An introduction, name of group, a short paragraph about who you are or who you represent, and a short statement on why supporting civil marriage equality. The rest of the submission should speak to the Bill itself, using the 6 starting points which directly address the Bill, and adding any other discussion points (a to e) above. g) As an example of what a submission could look like, Alex Greenwich sent me a link to a 2012 submission made by a faith group addressing a previous Inquiry: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_representatives_Committees?url=spla/bill%20marriage/subs/sub%20023.pdf h) Submissions can either be made public or private. i) groups who wish to join a "generic" Equality campaign submission, they can do so easily at: http://www.equalitycampaign.org.au/submission j) For more information about how and where to submit statements (closing date Fri 13 January 2017), please see the Senate Inquiry website: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Same_Sex_Marriage === The 6 points as included in previous emails: 1) We recognise that this Bill is about civil marriage law and not about religious marriage. This Bill will have no impact on our religious ability to practise our religion or rites in relation to religious marriage. 2) Religious freedom is important for society and should be protected, and we are satisfied with the protections that already exist in civil law for religious freedoms. To add any more legislation within a Bill that does not affect religious marriage in any way is unnecessary. 3) The religious freedoms provided for in the bill should encompass all aspects of religious marriage, rather than focusing solely on the exclusion of same-sex couples which we find unnecessary and discriminatory towards LGBTI people. We do not wish to enshrine into civil law any discrimination of a specific group of people especially when it supposedly made in the name of religion 4) Religious celebrants are already allowed to discriminate on the basis of their religious doctrine or principles. The Draft Bill allows for both ministers of religion and civil celebrants to discriminate on the basis of 'conscientious belief', that is, even when their objection to same-sex marriage is NOT linked to their religious doctrine or principles. We strongly oppose this as this provides a new basis for discrimination not currently included in Australian anti-discrimination law and sets a dangerous precedent. The 'conscientious belief' exemption is unnecessary and should be removed from the Bill. 5) The Draft Bill proposes that religious bodies and organisations be permitted to refuse to provide facilities, goods or services to LGBTI people for their weddings. We are satisfied that these existing religious freedoms are already enshrined in civil law. This new exemption is unnecessary, given the existing broad religious exemptions in federal discrimination law, and uncertain in scope because the terms 'bodies and organisations' is not defined. This exemption should be removed from the Draft Bill. 6) We believe that all relationships, regardless of sexuality, gender identity or intersex status should be recognised and treated equally in the eyes of civil law as a matter of human dignity and social justice. Civil law should allow for all adults to civilly marry the person they love. We support the Draft Bill's change in the civil, legal definition of marriage from "man and woman" to "2 people", which is inclusive of all LGBTI people and relationships. We support the Draft Bill's proposed recognition of previous foreign same-sex marriages.
from Novemeber 14
"If you look around, we're not advocating something radical really, we're saying the general Australian community wants equality of all people here, LGBTI people included. As I see it this isn't really an issue and certainly not a political one. You find this in the street, you even find this recognized in government white papers, yet it remains one of the last big social issues in Australia. So really we are not trying to change anything, it's already changing, what we are trying to do is add another voice saying to elected government and anyone else - GET ON THE SAME PAGE - the Zen school as a whole is."
So far most Zen teachers and Zen academics in Australia have co-signed the LGBTI statement that Mujyo Zenji has written. The biggest issue where there has been one has not been that disagreement, but rather a concern about taking a position. Religions and Spiritual movements in Australia, especially of Abrahamic origins, have historically taken a position of attempting to influence social standards and rights based on their doctrines, often based on origins fixed in time and place. However the social mssion of Zen school is to support secular standards of civil society.
"Religions and Spiritual groups should not make laws or tell people what they can do, rather what we should do is support the standards a society expects. Laws and standards are made by people. People have to make their own ethical judgements. Right Living as Buddhism calls it, is just that. If people feel that something hurts the community our role is not to tell them what hurts, but to help bring the community together. That's Right Living for the spiritual community. That's Compassion".
The Perth Voice interview with Mujyo Roshi at the link below
A PDF of the Statement of support 'A Universal Statement of Marriage Equality from the Zen School of Buddhism in Australia' is available on request.