The world is full of contradictions. To live a truly free life, you need to show discipline to earn a living and provide for yourself. To get healthy you need to make your body feel pain through exercise. To deliver a nation peace and security, we are best to prepare for war.
And to live in a harmonious society that gets along we need to respect the right of people to discriminate about who they associate with. Ironically, a tolerance for division creates unity, or in other words, good fences make for good neighbours.
The debate around the religious discrimination bill has become connected to the emotional and high charged debates around sexuality, gender and morality. What is being missed is that at the heart of the debate is the protection of the basic freedom to associate with like minded people within a community.
This happens all the time in less emotionally charged fields. I can choose my friendship groups, whether I join a trade union or sporting club. In all of these cases these organisations can discriminate and exclude others that do not share the beliefs and values of others.
That is the same with religion as well. A long fought for freedom was the freedom to establish your own religion. In joining a religious group you are almost always excluding those that do not share the values and beliefs of that religion.
It was not that long ago that violent wars were fought in western countries about this right. The Thirty Years War of the 17th century began as conflict over whether people could freely choose to practice Catholic or Protestant religions. It was perhaps the most destructive war in human history with parts of Germany experiencing population declines of over 50 per cent.
The conclusion of this war led to the establishment of national sovereignty and ultimately the widely accepted doctrine of freedom of religion.
This freedom has served western nations well but we are sliding back to a period where we fail to respect the boundaries between different groups and that only exacerbates division in our community.
Last month a Christian School in Brisbane, the Citipointe Christian College, required parents to sign a "contract of enrolment". That contract required parents to agree to among other things that the school would recognise the gender of a child at birth and that "sexual immorality (including but not limited to adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, bisexual acts, bestiality, incest, paedophilia and pornography) is sinful and offensive to God and is destructive to human relationships and society."
This contract has caused outrage and has directly led to proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act that would prevent a school from expelling a student based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
While I do not believe that any school should dismiss a student based on their sexuality or gender alone, I do believe that schools should have the right to set standards for their students. My wife and I send our children to local Catholic schools, in part, because the schools apply strict standards regarding dress, behaviour and conduct. If a child wantonly and repeatedly breaches these behavioural standards, the school should be free to expel them given the disruption misbehaviour creates for other students.
We must be careful any amendments to our discrimination acts still allow for discrimination on the behaviour of students at school. My view is that schools in general (although not the schools my kids attend) have become too lax on disciplining behaviour, and we fail young children by not setting enough strict boundaries and limits in modern life.
An "anything goes" approach to schooling does not properly prepare children for the hard realities of life where you cannot simply imagine your way to happiness. We should have laws to protect the rights of parents to send their children to schools that impose such discipline.