MEDIA RELEASE

The Australian Christian Lobby is seeking to reignite the divisive religious battleground of the Israel Folau saga by backing a Melbourne doctor suspended for offensive online conduct.

Australian Rationalist Society president Meredith Doig said the ACL’s vow to support Jereth Kok following his suspension by the Medical Board was further evidence of why the Morrison government’s Religious Discrimination Bill needed to be dumped.

“The ACL raised millions of dollars by stirring up outrage during the Folau case,” Dr Doig said. “It is now clear the lobby wants to make Dr Kok their new poster boy by offering to bankroll future legal appeals against his suspension.”

The Medical Board of Australia suspended Dr Kok after examining a decade of his social media posts, ruling they showed a lack of the integrity, ethics and compassion required of a medical practitioner. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has now upheld the Board’s decision, finding some of Dr Kok’s posts appeared to endorse or call for violence and/or genocide towards racial and religious groups and endorse calls for capital punishment for doctors who provide termination of pregnancy services.

“If the Religious Discrimination Bill becomes law, it will embolden other doctors to follow Dr Kok’s inflammatory and offensive conduct in the name of religion,” Dr Doig said.

“Existing anti-discrimination laws will be overridden and people who espouse hateful views will have a potential defence – with expensive litigation necessary to test the ambiguities of the legislation.

“A fresh outbreak of ‘culture wars’ is the last thing we need at a time when Australians need to unite against COVID-19 and rebuild for economic recovery. The government has much bigger problems right now and should knock this bill straight off the agenda.”

A vast array of social and professional groups as well as legal experts – including former High Court judge Michael Kirby – have described the bill as fatally flawed and warned it will actively facilitate discrimination rather than protecting from it.

“Senator Eric Abetz last week confirmed the bill was still on the government’s agenda despite COVID-19, so we can’t abandon the fight to keep Australia free from discrimination,” Dr Doig said.

The #DontDivideUs campaign against the bill is driven by a coalition of free-thought organisations including the Rationalist Society of Australia, the Atheist Foundation of Australia, the NSW Rationalist Association, Humanists Victoria, Sydney Atheists, the National Secular Lobby, the Australian Skeptics and the Council of Australian Humanist Societies.