Don't change 18C, says UCA President

Posted in News

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.

Update 03/04/17: Since publishing the above, the Senate has made the decision not to change the Racial Discrimination Act. Read Assembly's statement on this update here.

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Comments (3)

  1. Trevor Faggotter 29 march 2017, 20:43(Comment was edited) Link
    The President is free to express his opinion about 18c.

    But I am a member of the Uniting Church and hold a well considered contrary view. On this issue he does not speak for me.

    No vote has ever been taken from our members on this matter. Therefore the President is presumptuous at best, when he expresses this as «our view».
    1. Janice Merritt 29 march 2017, 23:58 Link
      It seems to me those who feel unfairly discriminated against have nothing to fear from the wording changes to 18c from «offend» to harrass. As it stands at present it is a gift to those who use «being offended' as a way to discriminate and offend others of different opinions to gain advantage for their particular cause.
      We all know what it means to be unfairly treated regardless of our skin colour or ethnic background. Some more than others.
      We should also try to treat each other with respect, regardless of our differences. Abusing people for „offending“ us only makes the situation worse.
      As 18c stands it is a very real threat to social cohesion in our multicultural society because it highlights accusations and divisions.
      As christians we should also remember the words of Christ to „forgive those who unfairly treat or offend you. Do good to those who despitefully use you.“ And see what God can do when we give it all to Him.
      Or do we think we know better than the teachings of our Lord?
      1. J Lomman 30 march 2017, 11:40 Link
        Free speech is too important to our society to have it limited in this way. I do not approve of the church hierarchy making statements like this on behalf of the members. There must be better ways to discourage racial vilification.
        1. Callum Iles 30 march 2017, 16:23 Link
          Any law that essentially says 'my freedom of speech is more important that your freedom of speech' undermines everything that civilised society is built on.

          The UC's stand on this issue does not represent me or many others members.
          1. Trevor R Faggotter 31 march 2017, 23:28 Link
            I fully agree, Callum.
          2. Catherine Hoffman, New Times Editor 03 april 2017, 12:54 Link
            An update has been provided by Assembly since the Senate's decision on this issue. Please see the link at the foot of the article.