I wish to provide a submission to the religious freedom review, which may be made public along with my name.
In the last decade there has been passed a great deal of federal, state and territory legislation which erodes freedom of religion in a wide variety of ways. I can't address them all in this submission, so for now I would like to draw the panel’s attention to the effect on the health and counselling sectors.
Firstly, the right to conscientious objection on religious grounds for health care professionals is seriously impacted by state abortion laws. For example, Section 8 of the Victorian Abortion Law Reform Act and Section 7 of the Tasmanian Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Act require doctors to refer a patient to another practitioner if they have a conscientious objection to abortion. But surely this just forces them to be complicit in facilitating the murder of a defenceless baby against their religious convictions under the threat of being struck off and losing their livelihood if they don’t comply!
Secondly, the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania now have laws which even prohibit peaceful prayer, protest and the offering of financial and spiritual assistance outside abortion clinics in order to maximise the genuine choices for often desperate women. How is it that state governments now feel justified in preventing Christians from expressing their beliefs by attempting to care for the defenceless and marginalised as the Bible calls us to do?
Thirdly, in Victoria, the Health Complaints Act 2016 now makes it all but impossible to offer help to those struggling with unwanted temptation to commit homosexual sin. There can be no doubt about the intent of this legislation, because the Victorian Health Minister, Jill Hennessy, in her speech introducing the Bill said that it would eliminate the “abhorrent” counselling for individuals seeking help for unwanted same-sex attraction. Again, this denies freedom of religion to counsellors, who are now threatened with stiff penalties if they even attempt to acknowledge and act upon clear biblical teaching that homosexual acts are sinful and damaging to those who practise them.
I am greatly concerned because recent trends suggest that these types of laws will spread to other states and territories and that persecution in the courts of those who seek to maintain their freedom of religion will only intensify.
Please report on these growing threats to freedom of religion in Australia and recommend ways to reverse them.
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