World swimming body FINA has levered podium protests at its Gwangju world championships as an opportunity to ban religious expression by competitors at all future FINA events.
The new Code of Conduct provision entitled “rules of conduct during the competition” was enacted after an alleged drug cheat was snubbed at two official FINA medal ceremonies.
The two new clauses, which could breach international human rights (ICCPR Article 18), effectively ban religious statements or behaviour “during competition” and appear to apply to all modes of communication, including social media.
The new code of conduct, according to News.com.au, reads: “The competitors shall actively participate in the full conduct of the competition including victory ceremonies and, if applicable, presentations and or press conferences”.
“They shall strictly avoid any offensive or improper behaviour towards the officials, the other competitors, the team members and/or the spectators during the entire conduct of the competition. Any political, religious or discriminatory statement or behaviour is strictly prohibited.”
According to FamilyVoice WA State Director Darryl Budge, these clauses are dangerously broad.
“Such clauses are so expansive that if Israel Folau agreed to similar terms in his Wallabies playing contract, Rugby Australia would have a much stronger case against him.
“A competitor or spectator might claim to have heard or seen a political or religious statement, even if it was not intentionally addressed to them, as in the case of social media. Alternatively, they may claim to possess a subjective, unverifiable feeling that the athlete’s behaviour was ‘offensive or improper’.
“Sporting competitions and teams have increasingly become platforms to exclude political and religious viewpoints and advocate solely for the claimed ‘righteousness’ of homosexual or transgender identity.”
Mr Budge comments about a recent American example.
“In a Folau-like case, Christian sportswoman Jaelene Hinkle reportedly rejected a place on the American national soccer team, because it would force her to wear a pro-LGBT rainbow jersey.
“The team coach is a lesbian, whose religious beliefs about LGBT values appear to be decidedly exclusionary against biblically-firm Christians.”
There are many more such cases of discrimination.
A Christian doctor in the UK is suing the government after he was sacked for refusing to refer to patients except by their obvious biological sex.
A UK school student who disputed his teacher’s claim that there are more than two genders has been banned from returning to the school.
UK social work student Felix Ngole recently won a three-year court battle, after being expelled in 2016 from the University of Sheffield for quoting Bible verses on Facebook.
Religious freedom is increasingly under threat, not only for Australian athletes but all employees, all independent schools, charities and organisations with a religious mission.
As Australia is committed to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, our nation should treat freedom as a positive right and not regard it as a narrow exemption.