The Jewish Community Council of Victoria has called for submissions “to investigate issues surrounding vilification, discrimination and mental health concerns faced by members of Victoria’s Jewish GLBT community.”
In considering preparing a submission for this investigation I have sought definitions of ‘vilification’ and ‘discrimination’ from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC).
The VEOHRC defines ‘vilification‘ (in the context of race and religion) as:
Vilification is behaviour that incites or encourages hatred of, serious contempt for, revulsion or severe ridicule of another person or group of people on the grounds of their race or religion.
Further, it defines ‘discrimination‘ (in the context of sexual orientation and gender identity) as:
Discrimination is treating someone unfairly because of a personal characteristic protected by law and causing them to be disadvantaged as a result.
Initially I thought it would be appropriate to prepare a comprehensive list of examples of vilification and discrimination that I have experienced on a personal level and those which I have witnessed through the media in the Jewish community. My archives over the past decade or so provide me with ample material for this exercise.
However, the time and effort necessary to undertake this task is substantial, and I feel that it would not necessarily convey the best ‘return on investment’.
Instead, what I have decided to do is present the underlying reason that vilification and/or discrimination exists against homosexuals and same-sex attracted people, relevant to the terms of reference for this submission. This reason unarguably underlies every single instance of attack, hatred and intolerance against homosexuality or same-sex attraction.
What I am presenting is the proscription of homosexuality in the Torah. I draw from two verses from the Book of Leviticus (Vayikra), specifically Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. My source here is my personal copy of The Chumash (Artscroll – Stone Edition, 4th Edn, 1994). I present the abovementioned verses and any accompanying commentary.
Leviticus Chapter 18 deals with “forbidden relationships”.
22 You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, it is an abomination.
22-23 Sodomy and bestiality. The chapter of immorality ends with two forms of sexual perversion: homosexuality and bestiality. The harshness with which the Torah describes them testifies to the repugnance in which God holds those who engage in these unnatural practices.
22 Toevah – An abomination. None of the relationships given above are described with this term of disgust, because they involve normal activity, though with prohibited mates. Homosexuality, however, is unnatural and therefore abominable.
Leviticus Chapter 20 deals with “punishments”.
13 A man who lies with a man as one lies with a woman, they have both done an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon themselves.
In these two verses from Leviticus, dealing with homosexuality, I encountered the terms ‘abomination’, ‘immorality’, ‘sexual perversion’, ‘repugnance’, ‘unnatural practices’, ‘disgust’, ‘unnatural’ and ‘put to death’. These are extremely harsh and unambiguous terms, so much so that to me they comprehensively and without a doubt exemplify the definitions of both vilification and discrimination that I supplied earlier.
If the JCCV is looking for the single reason that any vilification and discrimination exists against same-sex attracted people, they need look no further than any Torah or Chumash in the Jewish community of which a literal or absolute observance is expected. The Orthodox interpretation of these two verses of the Torah, and any associated commentaries, leave no doubt as to the expectations and obligations of same-sex attracted people.
The rabbis and others who teach and those who perpetuate these doctrines, doctrines that are out of touch with modern medical and psychological practices, are all complicit in vilifying and discriminatory behaviour against same-sex attracted people. Further, these attitudes contribute to the mental-health deterioration of same-sex attracted people, while rigorous and uncompromising adherence is demanded.
I believe this submission offers sufficient evidence to demonstrate vilification and discrimination against homosexual and same-sex attracted people in the context of the Victorian Jewish community.