Australian politician defending religious freedom says she faces bigotry worse than racism

Australia

An Australian with a senior position in the Liberal Party who has raised concerns about the impact on freedom of religion of attempts to redefine marriage says she has been subjected to bigotry worse than racism.

Karina Okotel, a Vice President of the Federal Liberal Party and who is of Sri Lankan heritage, says she has occasionally been subjected to racism in Australia. However, the “bigotry”, “discrimination” and “hate” she has experienced recently, due to her having opposed attempts to redefine marriage, have been “far worse.” She says, “I have even been told to go back to my own country, which is difficult given that I was born in Australia. However, the discrim­ination and hate I have faced, just by querying whether we should be legalising same-sex marriage, has been like nothing I have experienced before.”

She revealed that after she had raised concerns about how redefining marriage might affect freedom of religion, she had been refused service and received insulting comments based on her ethnicity. She has also raised concerns about the longer term impact of this hate campaign on freedom of speech in Australia, saying, “I wonder what life will be like for my own kids should they form a view that supports traditional marriage. To protect them, will I have to caution them to keep their views to themselves, not to ask questions and not speak up?”

Gay rights activists have long campaigned against discrimination and incitement of hatred against those identifying themselves as LGBT. It is therefore particularly disturbing that those who raise questions about the LGBT ideological agenda are now being subjected to similar intolerance, discrimination and hatred. What is happening in Australia is not new. When the UK similarly debated  redefining marriage in 2012-13, politicians, church leaders and ordinary Christians who voiced disagreement with it were subjected to a hate campaign which included death threats and huge amounts of abuse, much of it of a particularly vile and sometimes racist nature. 

The question raised by Karina Okotel, as to whether in future she would have to advise her children to stay quiet about their views on marriage for their own protection, is a particularly important and disturbing one. It is the sort of comment we hear said by parents in countries such as Pakistan, where anyone voicing dissent with Islamic ideology or beliefs risks being accused of blasphemy. Of course, the consequences of doing so in Australia do not compare in any sense with those in Pakistan. However, the fact that Mrs Okotel and others have been subjected to such a level of hatred and discrimination that she has felt it necessary to raise these concerns, should ring alarm bells.