parliament houseThe last federal Parliamentary sitting week in March was dominated by fierce debate about free speech and racial vilification.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it illegal to offend, insult or humiliate someone because of their race.

The Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt ran foul of these laws and was fined, prompting the then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to promise to repeal them.

No thinking person, and especially Christians, wants racism.

The question is, how do you strike the right balance between free speech and creating a culture of respect for all people?

The human rights lobby believes strong legal protections are needed against racist elements in the Australian community and wants the laws unchanged.

I tend to think the Australian community is far more tolerant than some give them credit for.

The Attorney General George Brandis has argued that free speech is a higher value and is proposing to repeal Section 18C.

However, he proposes to make it against the law to vilify or intimidate people on the basis of race where vilify means to incite hatred against a person or group and intimidate means to cause fear of physical harm.

While still subjective, that seems to be a more appropriate place to strike the balance.

But what of non-race-based claims of vilification?

Some people claim the statements: "Marriage should be between a man and a woman" and "that wherever possible, children deserve their mother and father" to be deeply offensive, humiliating and even 'hateful'.

Some politicians have even said there is "no place in Australia" for these views.

It seems the debate about free speech and freedom of religion in Australia is only just beginning.