Patricia H. Williamson

Submission number: 
13833
Date of submission: 
15th February 2018

Australian Law must adequately protect the human right to freedom of religion. There must be unequivocal protection for the right of any citizen to speak the truth even when this is under the challenge of contemporary radical thought.

Religious freedom is a fundamental freedom in a democratic society no matter what religion is being protected - Christian, Muslim, Buddhism, Hinduism, pseudo-Christian etc. Religious freedom represents much more than the freedom to worship - God's basic requirement for the Christian believer is to obey Him based on the commands He has given in the Bible. Religious freedom includes freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. In a democratic society the law must be unequivocal about freedom of religion particularly where the religion has established beliefs clearly documented and lawfully adopted. Freedom of conscience is a basic principle providing the liberty to speak publicly and privately about ones beliefs without the threat of preventing lawful assembly by individuals or groups with opposing views.

The recent debate on same-sex marriage demonstrated the need for specific protection for religious freedom. This was made extremely clear by the LGBTIQ lobby groups referring to those people who maintained that marriage was between a man and a woman as bigots. The definition of marriage was clearly defined in the authoritative book, the Christian Bible and in Australian law, They used this to justify their action to stop meetings of Christian groups, and hinder the debate on same-sex marriage. It appears that no legal action was taken to prevent this being repeated on many occasions.

I hold to the necessity for clear protection of specific freedoms:
1. Freedom for individuals to speek publicly about contentious issues, eg the Biblical definition of marriage
2. Freedom of parents and faith-based schools to raise and educate children in accordance with their moral and religious convictions;
3. Freedom of parents to determine what religious and moral issues their children may be taught.
4. Freedom of religious charities to hold their view of the definition of marriage without losing government funding and charitable status;
5. Freedom of businesses to withhold services which they do not wish to provided to any member of the public as a matter of conscience.

This is an important opportunity to make clearly defined laws to provide adequate protection from prosecution based on religious freedom. This must encompass laws which provide the fundamental freedom to believe and live out a person's faith and values without fear of harassment and intimidation.