The Uniting Church in Australia Assembly released the following statement from President Stuart McMillan as a response to recent discussions of Section 18C in the Federal Racial Discrimination Act:
The Uniting Church in Australia does not support the watering down of existing legal protections in the Federal Racial Discrimination Act.
I reaffirm our Church’s commitment to confront racism wherever it emerges in Australian society.
Every Australian should be able to live in our society free from the threat of racial discrimination and vilification.
Without effective protection, the Uniting Church is most concerned for the individuals subject to discrimination who would remain silent.
The Uniting Church is concerned the proposed changes section 18c of the Act, replacing the words “insult”, “offend” and “humiliate” in section 18C with “harass” could lead to more public expression of overt prejudice.
In a recent submission to the Federal Government, the Uniting Church in Australia argued for the retention in full of sections 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act to protect the dignity and rights of vulnerable minority groups in Australia.
As representatives from Indigenous and culturally diverse backgrounds have pointed out, this change is being advocated predominantly by people who have no idea what it’s like to endure racial discrimination in Australia.
I believe the changes proposed by the Federal Government present a serious threat to social cohesion in our multicultural society.
I urge all politicians of good conscience to do the right thing, and refuse to pass the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.
[News update 31.3.17: ‘The Senate has rejected changes to the Racial Discrimination Act that were designed to validate people’s desire to offend, insult and humiliate others on the basis of their race. Thanks to all who voted with those who are on the receiving end of racism instead of with those who want to feel able to dish out more of it’ – words by Brad Chilcott]