Moira Deeming and religious freedom in Victoria

The nine-month suspension of Moira Deeming, a newly elected Liberal MP, because of her attendance at a Let Women Speak rally prompts serious questions about whether there is a place for people who hold Christian views in the Victorian Liberal Party.

The leadership of the Victorian Liberals made it clear that Ms Deeming was suspended from the Liberal Party not just for her attendance at the rally (which was gatecrashed by neo-Nazis), but for her views regarding transgender issues and their intersection with the rights of women and girls. While these are views that are shared by many people living in Australia, both Christian and non-Christian, the Liberal party in Victoria has signalled that they have no place in the party going forward.

Moira Deeming’s treatment by Opposition Leader John Pesutto echoes that meted out to Dr Renee Heath, another Liberal Party candidate before the recent state election (who has since been elected). Then Opposition Leader Matthew Guy announced that Dr Heath would not be welcome in the Liberal Party room, even if she were elected, following a media story that linked her to City Builders Church and their traditional biblical views about marriage, life, gender and sexuality.

It appears that Ms Deeming’s (and Dr Heath’s) Christian views are in opposition to the modern, progressive political party that the Victorian Liberals aspire to become.

A Victorian Liberal Party insider made the following comments to the media about Ms Deeming:

“At end of the day, an MP is a brand ambassador for a political party. Moira knows that. Rather than focusing on helping the team rebuild the Liberal Party for the modern era, she’s focused on herself and everyone blowing up with her,” they said. 

“If you’re joining the Liberal Party to implement regressive politics such as repealing abortion or turning back voluntary assisted dying, it’s not the party for you”.

Ms Deeming was required to condemn the alleged views of rally speaker Kellie-Jay Keen and organiser Angie Jones as a condition of staying in the party room. Once this was provided, Opposition Leader John Pesutto said:

“Yesterday was the turning point we were looking for and I want to send a message to all Victorians to demonstrate that the Liberal Party I lead will be inclusive, welcoming, it will represent the diversity of our great state”.

Premier Daniel Andrews also weighed into the issue, making clear that he considers views that question the clash of trans rights and those of biological women as “ugly” and “evil”. Speaking to Parliament, Mr Andrews said:

“I want to make it very clear that that was an ugly, evil, harmful gathering, long before the Nazi salute was used … Fancy a group of people finding one of the most vulnerable cohorts in our community and then setting out with elaborate organisation and planning … to find the most vulnerable and then make their life even harder. As if 15 times the self-harm and suicide rate wasn’t enough. What do you want it to be? 20 times? 30 times? We stand with the trans community, with the LGBTIQ+ community, with every person who represents diversity in our community.”

What are the implications for religious freedom in Victoria when the government and the alternative government have made it clear that people who hold these views are not welcome in their parties, and further, that such views are “regressive”, “bigoted”, and “evil”?