Even if you don’t believe in Hell, the words and actions of believers still have an outsized impact on the ‘sinful’. That was the takeaway from last night’s Q&A, delivered in the show’s opening moments by Change.org Australia executive director Sally Rugg, who actually needed to remind the panel that saying gay people deserve eternal damnation does influence how people treat that community.

The panel show, which took place under the spectre of fired rugby player Israel Folau and his claim that gay people deserve Hell, got off to a lurching start.

When an audience member asked Liberal MP Dan Tehan whether he, as a Christian, believed Folau’s statement was an “act of love,” the pollie issued a hands-off response. Tehan discussed the fine-print of Folau’s contract and potential legislation preventing religious discrimination in the workplace, but handballed the tricky ‘were Folau’s comments hate speech?’ thing to Parliament. He got out of explicitly answering whether he shares the same beliefs as Folau.

After that soft but distanced statement of support, Rugg reminded the audience of the impact that kind of discussion can have on her and other LGBTQIA+ people.

“I just want to pause for one second because I feel like we’ve been doing Q&A for like, what, four minutes now, and already we’ve had several people repeat the claims that someone like me will go to hell unless I repent… and that was an act of kindness for someone to say I need to be saved,” she said.

“And I think it’s really important – we kind of bandy these words around, and these ideas around, as if it’s some philosophical argument, as if these words don’t mean things, and they don’t do things.”

She went on to say those comments “make me feel a bit sick, they make me feel tired. I feel confused why, in 2019, we’re having this kind of esoteric discussion on whether it’s harmful for these words to be bandied about in our society.”

Given the voluminous evidence we have linking the adverse treatment of LGBTQIA+ people to negative mental health outcomes, it’s understandable she’d feel that way.

Rugg went on to share some extra commentary on the broadcast afterwards.

If you would also like to judge in lesbian, check out the full show here. 

Image: Q&A / ABC