Bronwyn Evans

Submission number: 
85
Date of submission: 
3rd January 2018

Religious freedom means the freedom to choose to participate in, or not participate in, religious activities and beliefs. I strongly support this principle. Implicit in this, is the right to be free from the impact of another person’s religious beliefs / activities. This simply means that the XYZ religion may impose particular requirements on its followers, but anyone who is not a follower should not have those requirements imposed on them.

This is why the Australian Christian Lobby and other Christian leaders’ actions were so unreasonable during the Marriage Equality debate. They were seeking to impose their view on people who are not followers of their religion, This is effectively the same thing as imposing Sharia law on all Australians because that is the religious law that applies to Muslims. Neither is appropriate.

The ACL argument was deliberately ignorant of the separation of state and religion in our constitution. Marriage equality has no impact on religious marriage, but it does have an impact on civil marriage. It is simple equality for all.

Australia is not a religious state. The separation of religion and state is enshrined in the constitution and this should remain. Religious doctrine and rules are fine to apply to followers of a religion - ON CONDITION that it aligns with the laws of Australia. This means that the “sanctity” of the confessional is inappropriate. Every other profession has a legal obligation to report child abuse whenever a suspicion is raised, This should be consistent across all professions, including the clergy. No excuses!

I believe that Australia needs a bill of rights or constitutional preamble. When in South Africa, I was much impressed by the Bill of Rights enshrined in their constitution (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapter_Two_of_the_Constitution_of_South...). The detail of this came from the inequalities of the past and seeks to address these. We would be well served by modeling an update on this content.

Charitable tax exempt status should apply to monies raised to perform charitable works. Charitable works should not include worship. So, if churches raise money through donations, that which goes to helping the poor / disadvantaged should be tax free. That which goes to building churches and paying clergy should be subject to the same tax as other organisations. It was disgraceful that $1m was paid to the anti-SSM causes by the Anglican Church. This was supposed to be spent on charitable / good works not on discriminatory practices.

In summary:
1. All citizens and residents of Australia should have freedom to practice, or not, religion.
2. No one should be able to impose their religious beliefs and practices on another.
3. All religious practices should be subject to the laws of Australia.