Freedom of religion means much more to me that “freedom to worship”. It includes the freedom to express my Christian faith in my everyday life, the freedom for Christians to participate – as Christians – in the life of our nation (e.g., running Christian schools and welfare agencies). [Relate this to your personal circumstance/job/experience if possible]
There is very little formal legal protection of freedom of religion in Australia. Religious Freedom is under threat from anti-discrimination laws that have the effect of restricting religious speech (e.g., Archbishop Porteous in Tasmania) or which limit religious institutions in preferencing the employment of staff who support the religious ethos of the institution (e.g., the current proposals before the NT government).
Christians and people of other faiths are not protected from discrimination in Federal antidiscrimination law on the basis of their religion. It is inconsistent that age, disability, race, sex, intersex status, gender identity and sexual orientation are all protected attributed, but religious belief is not.
[As a Christian parent, it is important to me that I am able to raise my child in accordance with my Christian beliefs. I believe parents should have the right to withdraw children from certain classes if what is being taught is against our religious beliefs.]
I think that the Panel should recommends specific protection to recognise or enable:
- The right of religious bodies (including schools) to recruit staff who share the religious ethos of the institution.
- An anti-detriment provision that prevents government funding / charity registration / other accreditation being tied to a test that disqualifies a religious body due to religious belief.
- The right of parents or guardians to “ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions” [ICCRP 18(4)]
- Protection for freedom of expression of religious beliefs.
- Protection against compulsion to perform acts which are contrary to conscience or belief – eg. doctors being forced to perform abortions or to euthanise a patient.
- Protection for marriage celebrants who are not ministers of religion.
I give consent for this submission to be published by the Panel.
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