The Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) passed a law, which enforced an exclusion zone around a clinic in Canberra. This clinic sometimes provides women with abortions. The reason the 50 metre exclusion zone was declared was because christians were protesting immediately outside the clinic. These protests supposedly took the form of a ‘prayer vigil’, but there were signs such as ‘pray to end abortion’, ‘mothers choose life’, ‘we choose life’ exhibited, and the protest was attended once by the Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Christopher Prowse.
The ACT Attorney-General, Simon Corbell said, at the time, that: “This new protest-free zone is about ensuring that women, who have made what is already a difficult decision to have an abortion, can access the medical services they require without being forced to endure the judgement of others”.
The member of Tony Abbott’s inner, mostly religious, Monkey Pod circle, Senator Zed Seselja gave a speech to the Australian Christian Lobby in the middle of 2016, and of course, criticised the laws, stating they were incompatible with freedom of speech and religion and should be changed. Senator Seselja stated that he was a “big believer in freedom of speech and freedom of religion”. He followed this with: “I think provided that [protest] is done peacefully and in a way that is not violent or in any other way infringing on the rights of other people, then I think they should be free to pray, to speak, and to protest peacefully. I don’t think that law supports those principles”.
Given that their god is supposedly omnipotent and omnipresent, then surely he would be able to hear prayers from such a vigil, no matter from where they were ‘transmitted’. If that is so, then it can only be assumed that the sole purpose of holding the prayer vigil immediately outside the clinic, was to either intimidate or harass the women attending the clinic. Fortunately, the ACT government could see through this subterfuge and instituted the exclusion zone.
These poor women are going through a traumatic event in their lives, and the last thing they need is to be harassed and made to feel any worse. It makes you wonder what the christians would feel if we normal people held up signs outside their churches with signs like ‘protectors of paedophiles’, ‘child molesters’ and ‘kiddy fiddlers’. I would expect them to be upset and I presume they would ask either the police or the government to do something about it. I doubt Senator Seselja would be so keen to uphold our rights to do so as he was when his bunch were protesting.
That is the good thing about the rule of law. The laws made by the government trump any weird beliefs religious right wing nut jobs would like to inflict on the rest of us. In addition, Senator Seselja, would be wise to remember that, while freedom of religion is important, so is freedom from religion.