Christian group wants mentally ill people barred from churches

Christian group wants mentally ill people barred from churches

A national Christian group in Australia –  led by Reverend Ashley Saunders, above – is lobbying for the Disability Discrimination Act to be changed so that it can discriminate against people with mental illnesses.

FamilyVoice, arguing that such people could upset the “sacred” nature of church services, has called for a religious exemption to the Act because it interferes with freedom of religion.

In a submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry on freedom of belief, FamilyVoice said people with a mental illness had the potential to disrupt church services.

For very good reasons a religion may not wish to engage a person who has a mental illness and displays disturbed behaviour. Such behaviour would adversely affect a church service, which is sacred in nature.

A simple provision should be added for an exemption from the act for persons … whose conscientious beliefs do not allow them to comply.

However, FamilyVoice’s national Ashley Saunders “strongly repudiated” any suggestion the group did not want to support people with mental illness or disability.

Our submission did not say we should be able to discriminate with a blank canvas in areas of mental disability.

It is appropriate in some circumstances to discriminate justifiably where the person is involved in disturbed behaviour that is contrary to the best interests of the organisation.

Nowhere does the submission say that we don’t want people with disturbed behaviour to be part of a church.

What we have said is that church organisations should be able, in making decisions about employment, who leads the service, it is entirely appropriate that people who fulfil those roles not be people who manifest disturbed behaviour.

In an earlier statement, he said “we have absolutely no desire to exclude disabled persons” and “our policy submission raises concerns about problematic behaviours, not disability status”.

We hold the view that it would be most unhelpful if a religious organisation had no option but to engage someone in a public role who (for example) struggled with uncontrollable urges to loudly vocalise profanity or sexually explicit phraseology that would upset family worship services.

I hasten to point out that our staff members have a very long and positive association with people who have quite serious mental health challenges.

South Australian Dignity Party MLC Kelly Vincent, above, said the group’s submission was “cruel” and “hypocritical”.

I think this is not only incredibly shaky legal ground, it is also very cruel and ignorant.

It sends a very dangerous stereotype that all people with mental illness exhibit these behaviours, are dangerous somehow or want to interrupt services.

If you are isolating someone, particularly with mental illness, from receiving services and participating in a community activity like church or religious services, you are only going to compound those feelings of isolation and negative feelings that can lead to further mental illness.

The actress and playwright, who has cerebral palsy, said people need support.

The vast majority of people with mental health challenges can lead very productive, peaceful lives, especially if we have the right support around us, and for some people that may include church services.

Vincent said not employing people because they had a mental illness could lead to the “best people”, who had managed during hard times, not being available to teach valuable lessons.

As long as they can perform the duty of the job, who better to do that than someone who has experienced those difficult times?

FamilyVoice, which is an Adelaide-based national Christian organisation, also wants the Sex Discrimination Act changed, stating the laws as they stood directly contradicted the moral values of the Christian faith.

The Sex Discrimination Act bans the discrimination of people on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and relationship status.

FamilyVoice has described these matters as “highly controversial”, and in its submission called sex change “delusional”.

Conflict over the anti-discrimination laws is “almost inevitable”, according the submission. It insisted:

The effect of the Act is to empower those who have espoused one value system to impose their beliefs on those with contrary beliefs. Far from fostering social harmony, the Act is likely to exacerbate social divisions.

The group’s social media accounts show FamilyVoice takes a stance against same-sex marriage, transgender people, abortion, euthanasia and unisex toilets.

15 responses to “Christian group wants mentally ill people barred from churches”

  1. AndyB says:

    But if they barred the mentally ill from churches they would be empty……..

  2. sailor1031 says:

    more xtian “love”.

  3. remigius says:

    ‘For very good reasons a religion may not wish to engage a person who has a mental illness and displays disturbed behaviour. Such behaviour would adversely affect a church service, which is sacred in nature.’

  4. Peter Sykes says:

    “…very cruel and ignorant.”
    Perfectly sums up the religious.

  5. fredtully says:

    It was religion that caused my problems in the first place.

    Recovery from religious abuse involves leaving the crazy people… why would any one in there right mind believe any church had anything to offer.

    So do I care about your church?

  6. CoastalMaineBird says:

    Now if you will all open your Bibles to the Book of Levitations, chapter 21, verse 17, and follow long with me:

    Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God.

    For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous,

    Or a man that is brokenfooted, or sbrokenhanded,

    Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken;

    No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.

    He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy.

    Only he shall not go in to the veil, nor come near to the altar, because he has a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the LORD do sanctify them.

  7. Cali Ron says:

    AndyB and Peter Sykes: Spot on.

    remigius: “Such behaviour would adversely affect a church service, which is sacred in nature.” The video is an excellent example of the sanctity of the church and how it’s member show reverence for it. You could say that preacher has really shook up his congregation.

  8. Rob Andrews says:

    From the article it sounds like they want the power to kick unruly people out of the church., Or not hire someone they don’t like. Why shoud the state need to get involved?

    This proves one of the things I hate about theists. It’s that they are busybodies who want to get in other people’s lives.

  9. Ian Sayne says:


  10. StephenJP says:

    Many years ago, when I still thought I was a Christian, I attended a church that had links with a local home for people with learning difficulties, some of whom came to church on Sundays. Some clearly had Downs’, some others had conditions that I could not recognise. I must say that they were all welcomed with unconditional love and acceptance.

    While we rightly take the piss out of religious lunatics, from whichever faith they originate, we should also accept and celebrate those who are genuinely motivated by empathy and compassion – even though we know that what really motivates them is their humanity and not something supernatural.

  11. Vanity Unfair says:

    This could easily be settled by contract between the church and its employees or congregation. If I might quote from the traditional source Nox apud Opera:

    Fiorello: Hey, wait, wait. What does this say here? This thing here.
    Driftwood: Oh, that? Oh, that’s the usual clause. That’s in every contract. That just says uh, it says uh, “If any of the parties participating in this contract is shown not to be in their right mind, the entire agreement is automatically nullified.”
    Fiorello: Well, I don’t know…
    Driftwood: It’s all right, that’s, that’s in every contract. That’s, that’s what they call a ‘sanity clause’.

    All together, now….

  12. John the Drunkard says:

    An extreme touretter could disrupt a service just as they would the showing of a movie. Accommodation should be possible without exclusion.

  13. Robster says:

    Greetings from the Antipodes, “FamilyVoice, which is an Adelaide-based national Christian organisation” must be a completely unknown “national”organisation. This is the first most aussies have heard of this unsavoury mob of fools, hopefully the last.

  14. barriejohn says:

    StephenJP: I agree that what motivates many religious people to do “good works” is our common humanity and not some divine force. A young Christian woman from NC has been on the news recently, telling the whole world how God gave her “supernatural power” to survive a shark attack in which she lost part of her arm. “It’s just God. There’s no other explanation. I just had this supernatural, God-given strength that just rose up within me.” It might well have felt like that, and been interpreted that way by someone who is clearly intensely religious, but that’s not evidence that that is what happened.

    I also have memories of “Old People’s Teas”, carol singing at old folks’ homes and hospitals, craft and sewing classes, football coaching, and various other selfless efforts on behalf of the local community, but to the Plymouth Brethren these were all motivated solely by a desire to spread the Christian message, and little else. I well remember senior members intoning: “We’re not here to do social work”! I also found much of it patronising, and no efforts were made to see what various groups might really want in the way of help and support. I even heard of missionaries who refused to treat people at their clinics unless they had turned up early to listen to the Gospel Message! I don’t think this attitude is true of all Christians, but it is of many.

  15. Raul Miller says:

    How in the heck are they going to cast the demons out of these folks if they’re not in church? Come on people, think!