The parliamentary committee charged with reviewing the first four years of the operation of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act handed down its report a few weeks ago. As we reported at the time, the report did not call for the complete repeal of the Charter, but did make recommendations to remove some of its more troubling aspects.

As the Government considers its response, a campaign has been launched by the Human Rights Law Centre calling for the Charter to be retained and even strengthened. This is concerning because Charters of Rights transfer power and authority from elected members of Parliament to unelected judges, distorting our democracy.

It may seem incongruous for Christians to oppose legislation that purports to protect rights, after all are we not for rights and freedom? Yes, we are, however the way in which rights are defined and protected is just as important. The Charter seeks to only protect a certain and limited list of rights and it contains provision that can be used to limit rights. For instance in a recent court case the rights of Christians to act in accordance with their faith was deemed to be a lesser right than that of others who wanted to promote homosexuality to young people. The Charter was used to support this argument.

What can we do? We would encourage you to write to the Premier, calling on him and his government to repeal the Charter. This Charter holds dangers in regards to religious freedom and it allows courts to exert too great an influence over parliament – by declaring legislation incompatible with the Charter. It politicises the judiciary and creates an atmosphere where rights are emphasised over responsibilities.

The Charter played a significant role in attempts to limit religious freedom under the previous government as it sought to restrict the ability of religious groups to employ those who shared their faith and values.

There are better ways to protect human rights. The Charter has sadly shown itself to be a mechanism for activists to promote some rights above the right to religious freedom.

Please write to the Premier and urge him to repeal the Charter. The Premier’s contact details are:

Office of The Premier

Level 1, 1 Treasury Place,

Melbourne, VIC

Email: ted.baillieu@parliament.vic.gov.au