James Mitchell

Submission number: 
93
Date of submission: 
3rd January 2018

There is ample religious freedom in Australia – every person is free to practice any religion without discrimination. This does not mean however that any person has the right to discriminate against another person because of their religious beliefs.

I point out that religious beliefs are a personal choice, and should never be used to determine civil law or rights that apply to society as a whole. We live in a secular society, and one person’s beliefs should not dictate the personal freedoms of another person who does not share those beliefs. To discriminate is not a personal freedom, protection from discrimination is. This applies to Christians as it does all other religions and non-religions.

I would also point out, that the last census in 2016 confirmed that the largest religious group in the country is now actually those who have no religion. I do not therefore see how it can be justified to inflict laws and rules on wider society based on one single religion that is not a majority. Christian values should be respected but should not be applied to society as a whole.

If we are looking at ‘religious freedom’, I trust that ALL religions will be considered and not just Christianity. This includes the majority of Australians who have no religion. In reviewing ‘religious freedom’, I would have some serious concerns about what implications any recommendations would have upon those with extreme religious views, and what impact this may have on radicalisation, extremism and terrorism. Once you start to allow discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs, where does it stop? I fear any movement in this direction poses a serious threat to society and starts to wind back years of progress in anti-discrimination legislation.

Furthermore, if considering ‘religious freedom’ and, for example, the right to discriminate against another person based on religious views – how would this be interpreted if a person discriminated against a Christian, based on a ‘religious view’? Or a Muslim, or Jew? Where do you draw the line?

I cannot reiterate enough, that this ‘review’ should not be considered as an exercise of protecting Christian values, because religions and religious freedom does not just apply to Christians, it applies to all religions and non-religions. There is no threat to religious freedom in Australia and there should be no threat to the freedoms of those who do not share the same religious beliefs or values.

As a society we should be able to have respect for each other as fellow Australians, regardless of our personal beliefs and values.