Why religious freedom?
We care about religious freedom because we care about the gospel. We care about Christ’s call to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth, in what we say, how we live, and the presence we carry with us into the world.
As I write this, it is a sad reality that dozens of Christians are embroiled in legal battles for trying to do exactly that.
Israel Folau posted a simple gospel message and a paraphrased Bible verse on his social media and look what happened.
There are dozens of less famous Australians who face losing their livelihoods right now for similar reasons.
You can help
The Attorney-General has released a draft Religious Discrimination Bill and is asking for your feedback.
The bill has some major problems, but if they were to be fixed, it could achieve a lot of good for the cause of religious freedom in Australia.
You have one week, until 5pm Wednesday 2 October, to urge the Attorney-General to do the right thing by making these essential changes.
What you can say
In your own words, you might like to include a few ideas from the following points:
- Big companies should not be permitted by the bill to restrict statements of belief from their staff on the basis that it might cause them “unjustifiable financial hardship.” That simply gives permission for big corporates like QANTAS to put pressure on groups like Rugby Australia to fire people like Israel Folau.
- The bill allows government and smaller corporate employers to limit employees’ statements of belief if it is “reasonable.” That threshold is far too low, and should be brought into line with international human rights law, which permits such limitations only when it is “necessary.”
- Statements of belief should not be prohibited on the basis that they “vilify.” This is a word that is not used in any other Australian law, and it has no clear legal meaning. Australians like Archbishop Julian Porteous still won’t know what they can and cannot say.
- The bill must provide that religious schools can clearly and unambiguously proclaim their teachings and employ staff who share their beliefs.
- Actions by faith-based charities which are consistent with their beliefs are protected, unless the charity is engaged mainly in commercial activities. This is a problem for a great many churches and other groups who structure their activities so that some entities earn the money and the others spend it on good causes. Faith does not pause when the cash register opens.
- The bill protects “lawful religious activity.” Religious activity needs to be defined to make sure it includes public actions which are consistent with someone’s faith (like their social media posts, academic works, professional conversations, etc.), not merely actions which are inherently religious (like praying, going to church, etc.) If the bill doesn’t say so, the courts will get to decide!
- There is also a problem with the word “lawful” – what if a local council made a bylaw that restricted religious freedom? Or an aggressor sued someone under another law like the Sex Discrimination Act… Does that mean religious freedom is always a second-class right? All religious activity should be protected, so long as it is not criminal.
- The bill should say that it is religious discrimination to force a person to act against their conscience. For example, in providing services they cannot agree with (abortion, IVF, hormone therapy), or supporting events they cannot agree with (like same-sex weddings).
- The bill protects health practitioners’ rights to conscientious objection, but not if their home state fails to do so. The bill should overrule state law and protect the conscience all health practitioners.
A video summarising key concerns with the bill can be seen below.
As I mentioned, the Attorney-General wants to hear your feedback on this bill before 5pm on Wednesday 2 October.
Write to the Attorney-General using the template below
Thank you for standing up for truth in the public square.