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MR: Freedom of speech and freedom of religion threatened by Tasmanian anti-discrimination legislation
· November 14, 2012 11:00 AM
For release: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Freedom of speech and freedom of religion will be diminished in Tasmania if amendments to anti-discrimination legislation are passed by the Parliament, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.
The Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2012, which is being debated today, would threaten the ability of religious schools to maintain their ethos, ACL’s Tasmanian Director Mark Brown said.
“In the same way political parties are able to positively discriminate in favour of people who share their ethos, religious schools should also have this right in order to preserve their distinctives,” Mr Brown said.
The proposed changes would deny schools the ability to select students according to the faith and values of students or their parents.
Schools could apply for an exception on a case-by-case basis but the requirements are onerous.
“The proposed changes to the Bill violate the rights of parents who want to educate their children a certain way, and the rights of those children who share their parents’ faith and values,” Mr Brown said.
“Article 18(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) specifically protects the right of parents “to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions".
“Faith-based schools should have the right to determine their enrolments according to their mission and purpose. This is to ensure that the religious ethos and community culture of the school is maintained,” Mr Brown said.
“Instead of case-by-case exceptions, there should be a general exemption allowing schools to select students of the particular faith of the school.
“Just as single-sex schools will positively discriminate in selecting students of one sex, schools which are set up to serve a particular faith community must be allowed to uphold the purpose and intent of their schools by selecting students of a particular faith, should they choose to do so,” Mr Brown said.
The proposed legislation would also expand the prohibition of conduct which “offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults, or ridicules".
Mr Brown said such changes would threaten free speech and open dialogue and increase unnecessary litigation, concerns which are heightened by the experience with anti-vilification laws in Victoria.
“ACL certainly objects to behaviour that incites hatred or ridicules another but to open the prohibition of offence to things like religious or political belief or sexual orientation is a threat to freedom of speech. Who doesn’t get offended or insulted at times by others’ differences of opinion? This is part of living in a democracy,” Mr Brown said.
“Censoring free speech based on hurt feelings is to trivialise discrimination and is political correctness gone mad.”
ACL's Jim Wallace writes in Sight Magazine
· October 29, 2012 11:00 AM
ACL's Managing Director Jim Wallace has had an opinion piece published in Sight Magazine entitled
Religious Freedom - Why We Must Defend It.
See below for a copy of Mr Wallace’s opinion piece.
In this fast paced world in which we live many of our wives will expect their men to be at risk of dying from heart attack. Mine has a different fear.
Beside our bed is a pile of my bedside reading. A dangerously tottering pile of, at last count, up to 96 partially read books, that she is sure will fall and kill me before the year is out. But my great disappointment is that I fear her concern is more the likelihood of suffering collateral damage in what seems I must admit, my inevitable end.
But one of the books is of Historic Speeches – which I hasten to add I was not plagiarising for this piece. And I was struck to see that the very first speech in the book was by Moses, as he returned from Mount Sinai to deliver the Ten Commandments to the Hebrews.
But even more striking is what the secular author of the book said in his foreword to it.
“At Mount Sinai he revealed the Ten Commandments, an extraordinary code of conduct distinctively different from anything then known in the ancient world. The Mosaic Law emphasised humility, sympathy for the poor, the widowed and the oppressed, considerations that were low in the priorities of other nations;...”
I suppose a better student of history wouldn’t have thought twice about this, but I did, and decided to look at what those other societies were like. It’s difficult to find information on issues such as treatment of the poor, but the better reported attitude to human sacrifice gives a pretty good idea of the nature of them.
Human sacrifice was practiced widely in the ancient world by the Ethiopians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Phoenicians, the Canaanites, the Scythians, the Egyptians, and of course by the Africans and peoples of the then undiscovered Americas and the Britons.
We know from the book of Kings that when the King of Moab saw the battle going badly for him, he called forth his eldest son, the crown prince, and had him sacrificed by burning alive on the parapets of the city to usage the gods. Sacrifice of the first born was also prevalent.
But now nearly three and a half thousand years later, after these God given rules first started to transform societies and even more of course with the death and resurrection of Christ, there are people who not only want to constrain their moderating effect on human nature, but eliminate it.
If they’re bent on evil they have good reason for it of course, because there is plenty out there that needs to be moderated by Godly influence and values.
For instance we may not sacrifice children on altars – but we leave them to die – as many as 50 after failed abortions annually in Victoria alone. And certainly we kill up to a 100,000 per year by successful abortions, and we have just given our highest national honour to a man in Peter Singer who believes we should be able to kill them as late as two years old. When they’re at an age that we can be sure they won’t be a burden to parents through some unwanted or inconvenient disease or disorder – a distraction always difficult to accommodate in our busy modern life.
Who is going to represent the case of the voiceless babies in this increasingly utilitarian world if freedom of religion is not protected? Because speaking on this does offend a lot of people when we have so many abortions in Australia each year, and you’re not allowed to offend.
On what basis will the situations of those doctors be represented, who by legislation are currently forced to refer patients to abortionists in Vic for instance; or even worse still participate in abortions, if freedom of religion and conscience are not protected as a legitimate basis for their objection.
Then again, if we are likely to be heading to the economic hardships of Greece in the long term as David Murray has said recently, who will represent the case for continued generosity to the world’s most vulnerable, if the only voice allowed into the debate is that of self interest.
Perhaps when even more of the community has a self interest in not giving aid there will be even more momentum to silence religious freedom and conscience than in the current debate on same sex marriage, which has a very small active constituency.
Our social licence to speak into society is values based, not science or reason based. It’s foundation in our faith gives consistency and humanity in a domain that will otherwise quickly default to self interest, convenience and utility.
We see this clearly already in debates about abortion, euthanasia, eugenics and many more – they become arguments about convenience and utility without a faith input.
If today we are supposed to see freedom of religion and conscience constrained or at worst removed because the incompatibility of a faith perspective with the homosexual or atheists’ agenda – what agenda will find its restriction equally attractive tomorrow and to what end. To what end for what evil?
Surely we have seen clearly enough in even recent history that the suppression of religious freedom is the first step in the reduction of humanity.
Some commentators put the deaths under atheist communism as high as a hundred million people including 65m in China and 20m in the Soviet Union.
Our concern for religious freedom and freedom of conscience today should not be for their effect on us, or the church – but the effect on humanity when the light of the Gospel in all its forms through churches, in education, and through advocacy is limited by law. The effect on humanity
is what we must be concerned for.
I must admit that we, the Church have I think been slow to respond to this issue and perhaps to our great discredit, then only when it knocks on our own front door.
For millions of Christians and indeed other mainly minorities this is a daily reality. Our brothers and sisters in Christ have been persecuted to a degree that lead Bishop Anthony Fisher to say recently and I am sure rightly, that this current era of history supersedes all others for its persecution of Christians.
Indeed in ACL we have been attempting to intervene for nearly a year now in the case of an Afghan Christian, a pastor, who is literally being hunted across north India by Muslims who are determined to kill him for not just his own conversion, but his pastoring of other converts.
Recently we were advised that website’s now carry a reward of R1m for his death. We still can get no action on the case out of UNHCR. The reaction – it’s just another case. Death for your beliefs is so common place overseas, that its imminent reality can’t galvanise the UNHCR into action.
We need as a Church to get more active on the atrocious abuses being occasioned against vulnerable Christians overseas. But the reality is that we must also deal with the problem of religious freedom at home, in this secular society
I do want to make clear though that for me, this is not an issue of restricting others’ rights to freedom of faith and conscience. I do not sit here insecure in my beliefs, doubting of my God, to the degree that I’m seeking other faiths the be restricted.
Certainly they must be limited by the normal strictures of the law. In this regard the laws interest in the riots in Sydney recently was whether anyone had in the first instance a permit to demonstrate and then whether they committed violence of affray or incited others to. Not that it had a religious purpose.
Freedom of religion and conscience has to be available fully to all people of faith.
But it must guarantee that equally, and equally with other beliefs not always declared as religious beliefs.
In the last two weeks I have been made aware of two cases of people being called into work as the result of complaints made by outside callers about their views.
One is a young man who is a frequent author on a popular web based opinion site. He writes on many different topics, but did an article on same sex marriage – disagreeing with it.
Someone tracked him down by googling his name to his place of work and reported him, citing the company’s diversity policy.
In another unrelated case, a woman who is an employee of a major bank had her appointment title listed on a Christian Business Persons’ website of which she was a member. Someone obviously objected to the fact that somewhere on this website there was an endorsement of traditional marriage.
Again I guess we call them a “troll” contacted the bank, claimed again the fact that the bank had a diversity policy and the person was called in.
Now I really am sorry that each of these cases is pursuit by a homosexual activist it would seem – but I’m only telling the story.
These examples are the start of what we already know happens with even more frightening effect overseas – and remember we are talking about people being harassed in this case for holding a view that reflects the law of the land on marriage!
We have seen the chaplaincy providers harassed all the way to the High Court because a single atheist objected to the presence of chaplains in schools which well over 90% of their principals had rated as extremely valuable.
We now have the Greens and gay activists announcing in Tasmania that children are to be taught on the homosexual life style throughout the primary school curriculum.
Now last time I looked Freedom of Religion included the right for parents to determine that their children will be educated in their faith and its values. But I will be interested to see if the parents of Christian children are allowed to remove their children from this part of the curriculum – certainly they are not in Massachusetts. This is because gay marriage is enshrined as equal to marriage in law, making it discriminatory to remove even a kindergarten equivalent child from the reading of the
King and King
– a story of two princes who meet, fall in love and live happily ever after.
We have even had cases overseas of it being proven unlawful to pray for people either publicly or privately without their permission.
My concern is that we are beginning to create in our laws, vulnerabilities for churches, church organisations and people of faith without considering the effect on freedom of religion and conscience, when it is very plainly there to be seen around the world.
There are abundant examples around the world of this unreasonable militant atheism or gay activism and their clear intent to pursue the Church and people of faith – and yet we continue to pass laws that create vulnerabilities – and this despite religious freedom and freedom of conscience actually
fundamental human rights.
This is a hugely important subject and one on which the church cannot afford, for the sake of the Gospel, to be caught napping at the altar.
Christians won't vote for atheist leaders: research' - by Grant Power
· October 15, 2012 11:00 AM
Grant Power provides an interesting perspective on the Christian vote in an article published in Crikey today entitled 'Christians won't vote for atheist leaders: research.'
Tony Abbott is a Christian. Did you know that? Perhaps it slipped your notice when he condemned boat people as “un-Christian” for using the back door, or when he told the Australian Christian Lobby that “our civilisation is inconceivable without the influence of Christian faith”, or insisted that Bible classes in schools should be compulsory.
to read the rest of the article.
ACL's Jim Wallace writes in Eternity Newspaper
· September 27, 2012 10:00 AM
ACL's Managing Director Jim Wallace has had an opinion piece published in Eternity Newspaper entitled
Church must decide on whether it can remain silent.
See below for a copy of Mr Wallace's opinion piece.
The successful defence of marriage in the Federal Parliament has been blamed by same-sex activists on a host of reasons with no more substance than their arguments for marriage.
Of course the fact that the Coalition didn’t allow a conscience vote is prime among these, when even in a free vote it would have failed in the Lower House. But the hypocrisy of this claim runs much deeper.
Less than a year ago both major parties were committed to the biological reality that marriage is between a man and a woman. And it was only the very lack of a conscience vote for left union delegates at the Labor National Conference that put this truth under threat.
It is to Labor’s shame that it would be as hypocritical as to hound Abbott for the lack of a conscience vote in the Coalition, when the majority of the Australian Labor National Conference were not given free votes on it themselves.
It was here too that the tactics of demonisation so evident in this campaign, first surfaced. Highly respected Labor figures like Joe de Bryun were heckled and mocked with the skilful orchestration of Rainbow Labor. A tactic same sex activists have repeated to empty the public space of alternate voices here, just as they have overseas.
With a deftness that can only come from well resourced intent, it successfully labelled any opponents with the hate language of “homophobe”, “bigot”, “gay haters” and “propagators of hate”, when all the time they were the only ones in the debate using such language.
It simply defies reason and any sense of impartiality in the media at large, that the church, which comes to its position on marriage from a love of children and the desire to see them grow and flourish in the biological identity which by God’s grace they are created, should be accused of any motivation but love. Certainly at ACL that is our sole motivation, we would not by our very motivation in Christ, use the language of which we have been accused.
But this tactic has worked well for these activists overseas of course. Amsterdam’s Chief Rabbi was sacked and a Spanish Catholic Bishop threatened to be charged with hate speech for simply exercising both their freedom of religion and conscience by voicing their faiths’ positions that marriage is between a man and woman – something that should not surprise a church which knows that the world rejects truth.
However it is the effect on individuals of this tactic which is most shameful, with gay activism increasingly prepared to pursue dissenting voices to their professional and personal ruin.
A Canadian sports commentator was recently fired for tweeting “I believe in the TRUE meaning of marriage”. And in one of the saddest cases, America’s most successful Olympic gymnast Peter Vidmar was stripped of the honour of being chef de mission for the 2012 Olympics team by gay activists vitriol at his prominent support of marriage.
The next round of this debate must be conducted in a way that the merits of opposing views can be put forward without fear of public demonisation.
We must also ask ourselves whether the automatic default to conscience votes on difficult issues is really appropriate. The conscience vote has traditionally been for life issues, but should its use be so generally applied that in the end parties won’t have to tell us where they stand on any moral issues at elections, as if morality is a private matter with no public consequences.
It is the immorality of our legalised prostitution which drives the demand that causes some 800,000 women and girls to be trafficked across borders every year in a tragic trade netting criminals thirty two billion dollars annually. And the greed Christ taught as immoral, that drives an unfunded future debt in the West that has it caught in a spiral of immediate excessive gratification that will not only effect its own future generations, but will increase its blindness to the inexcusable inequality in a world in which those God loves die daily of starvation and preventable illness.
A conscience vote also exposes individual parliamentarians to the direct lobbying of individuals. This would be attractive if the process hadn’t been poisoned by gay activism to mean isolation by fear of public demonisation. This is a combination not helpful to democracy, but toxic for it.
But perhaps the biggest question to come out of this whole debate on marriage is for the church itself.
It must decide whether in a world replete with examples of this unreasonable gay activism using same sex marriage to relentlessly pursue the church and its very freedom to preach the Gospel it can remain silent and cowered. But more importantly, do we have the freedom to deny God’s very purpose for marriage, and if we do, what of Christ do we deny next?
Nick Jensen on Open House
· September 25, 2012 10:00 AM
Open House is a three-hour talk show airing across Australia on Sunday nights, exploring life, faith and culture from Christian perspective. Nick Jensen, the Programme Manager of The Lachlan Macquarie Internship, spoke to Leigh Hatcher on Open House last Sunday about the program and how he's working to instil a Christian worldview in tomorrow's leaders. He also spoke on the importance of Christianity in world politics, particularly in raising up people of value, integrity and faith to shape the way public policy is formed.
To listen to Nick's interview, click
For more information on The Lachlan Macquarie Internship and to apply, please visit the
Bartlett Greens deal a breach of integrity, faith with voters
· April 13, 2010 10:00 AM
For release: April 14, 2010
Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett’s offer of a ministry to the Greens is a blatant breach of integrity and a breach of faith with the electorate, the Australian Christian Lobby said today.
“If voters can’t depend on commitments given as unequivocally as David Bartlett’s during an election, how on earth can they trust the government this failure of integrity produces,” ACL’s Tasmanian Director Nick Overton said.
“This is not a party partisan issue, it would be an issue of integrity, whoever had been responsible for it,” Mr Overton said.
Such clear statements as McKim “will never be in a Labor ministry”, and labelling McKim “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”, gave many voters the confidence to vote Labor when clearly many wouldn’t have if it meant accommodating an increase in Greens’ influence in public policy.
“The prospect of the Greens being handed the Education portfolio will be of grave concern to the majority of Christians, who would be worried about the Greens’ extreme social values being foisted on children during their formative years,” Mr Overton said.
While Greens candidates, including Mr McKim had attended ACL candidates’ forums, the Greens had failed to answer specific questions about their policy agenda in writing.
Mr Bartlett had termed a partnership with McKim a “deal with the devil”.
“Hopefully he will not allow the “devil” to further erode the commitments given directly to the Christian constituency at ACL’s leaders’ Make It Count event in Hobart on February 15.”, Mr Overton said.
Media Contact: Nick Overton 0408 850 629.
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