Rev. Radhika Sukumar-White addresses Kill the Bills Rally
One of the ministers at Leichhardt Uniting Church, Radhika Sukumar-White, addressed the Kill the Bills rally in Sydney on Saturday, 17 April. The rally sought to highlight and protest against NSW MLC Mark Latham’s Parental Freedom Bill and the Morrison Government’s proposed Religious Freedom Bill. The following is an edited version of Rev. Sukumar-White’s address.
I acknowledge that I stand and speak on the lands of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation. I pay my respects to their elders past and present, as well as to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People here today.
I have been invited by Community Action for Rainbow Rights to speak as a minister of religion today. I am honoured to have been asked; and I stand here embarrassed by my employing body.
I am embarrassed because the Church has and continues to hurt, vilify, abandon and exclude those who do not fit within a heteronormative standard. I know that many of you have seen and experienced the Church as a place of hate and discrimination, despite the Church claiming to be about love.
In my congregation at Leichhardt Uniting Church, I have heard stories every week from members of the LGBTIQA+ community, who have inevitably experienced trauma because of their sexuality or gender identity, and who are truly shocked to discover that there are faith communities around that are safe, welcoming and fully affirming of LGBTIQA+ people – there are not many, but they do exist.
Friends, I want you to hear that I am a minister in the Uniting Church in Australia, and I am a proud ally of the LGBTIQA+ community – not despite my faith and ordination, but as an expression of both. I am an ally because I believe that the way of Jesus is the way of love for all our neighbours, not just the cisgender straight ones. And, as much as I can say this, I am deeply sorry for the ways the Church has hurt so many of you.
When I see bills like Latham’s and Porter’s released and debated, I see a comparison to Jim Crow laws in the States, or Apartheid in South Africa, or the White Australia Policy here, and I am reminded of ways various places pushed to discriminate against people who looked like me, because they weren’t the white norm. Jim Crow, Apartheid, White Australia, Parental Freedoms – these seek to enshrine discrimination and trauma into law, on the basis of “religious freedom” or the “rights of parents”. Those bases are fallacies.
The truth is, Christians are not persecuted in Australia. It is completely disingenuous and ridiculous to suggest otherwise. And despite Latham’s efforts, and the Australian Christian Lobby’s efforts – trans people and gender non-binary people and intersex people exist and are just as loved by God as anyone else. These bills are motivated by fear and hate – ironically, the very things that Jesus spoke and pushed against!
I refuse to be motivated by fear and hate, and neither will my community at Leichhardt Uniting Church, and neither will those of us gathered here at this important rally – LGBTIQA+ people and allies united together.
I will not buy into the idea that gender diversity is sinful or wrong, because it is not.
I will not stand by while the Australian Christian Lobby tries to tell Australia they speak for all Christians, because they do not.
And I will not be silent when bills like these come before Parliament to solidify hate and discrimination against a particular demographic, because we can be so much better than that.
And so I, and my fellow allies stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, against these sins, against these bills, against this hate, against anything that denies your worth, humanity and basic rights.
Let me finish with this:
There’s a road we must travel; there’s a promise that we must make
But the riches will be plenty; worth the risks and the chances that we take;
There’s a dream in the future; there’s a struggle that we have yet to win
Use that pride in our hearts to lift us up tomorrow,
Cos just to sit still would be a sin,
Lord knows, we know where we’ve been.
Rev. Radhika Sukumar-White is one of the ministers at Leichhardt Uniting Church.