Religious Freedom Protection in Australia — 2017 update

Neil Foster at Law and Religion Australia writes:

“I recently presented a paper surveying general religious freedom protections available in Australia, based on a similar paper I presented in 2015 but updated with some more recent developments. The paper can be downloaded here. …

Hopefully the paper will be a useful resource in this area.”

Freedom laws needed

“The Diocese of Sydney, along with a number of other Christian groups, has called for special legislation to enshrine freedom of belief as a ‘positive right’ in Australia, rather than as a negative ‘exemption’ to other legislation.

The call came in a submission to the Federal Government inquiry into the ‘protection and promotion of the human right to freedom of religion or belief worldwide, including in Australia’. …”

– Report from Russell Powell at SydneyAnglicans.net.

Faith counts — 2016 Census figures released

“The latest census figures showing a rise in the number of people reporting no religious affiliation do not show Australia is losing faith, according to the Dean of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel.

2016 Census figures, released today show the proportion of people reporting no religion increased to 30 percent in 2016 – up eight percent in five years, and nearly double the 16 per cent recorded in the 2001 census. …”

– At SydneyAnglicans.net, Russell Powell reports on comments made on SBS Television by the Dean of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel.

‘Pyne’s boast: The plan revealed’

“Christopher Pyne bragged to his Left-wing faction that we might get same-sex marriage ‘sooner than everyone thinks’.

As he said on Friday:

One of those we’ve got to deliver before too long is marriage equality in this country… We’re going to get it. I think it might even be sooner than everyone thinks. And your friends in Canberra are working on that outcome.

Sure enough:

Two Liberal MPs have been secretly working on a plan to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia as soon as August, with a draft copy of the laws well advanced and consultation with advocates under way. …”

– from The Herald Sun. (Photo: pyneonline.com.au.)

Protection of Religious Freedom through Discrimination Balancing Clauses

Associate Professor Neil Foster presented a paper with the above title at today’s Freedom 17 Conference in Canberra.

He has made it available via his blog.

Margaret Court Arena name change called for after star’s Qantas boycott over gay marriage support

“Martina Navratilova has joined calls for Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne to be renamed after the tennis champion said she would no longer fly with Qantas because of the airline’s stance on same-sex marriage.

Margaret Court, who is now a pastor at Victory Life Church in Perth, wrote an open letter to Qantas in yesterday’s West Australian saying she was disappointed that Qantas chief Alan Joyce had become an active campaigner for same-sex marriage. …”

– Contrary views no longer permitted. Story from ABC News.

Abortion bill defeated in NSW Parliament

“The decision of the NSW Legislative Council to reject Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi’s extreme abortion bill is a win for both women and unborn children in the state, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.

The Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016 sought to make abortion legal up to birth, remove the rights of doctors to conscientiously object, and ban prayer vigils and sidewalk counselling outside abortion facilities or be subject to 12 months in prison or a $16,500 fine.

ACL NSW director Mark Makowiecki said the bill did not include any safeguards for women seeking abortion, nor did it require abortion practitioners to hold a medical qualification. …”

– from an Australian Christian Lobby media release.

And from Paul Green, MLC, Christian Democratic Party:

“We have received hundreds of emails and letters, including a correspondence from the Catholic and Anglican Archbishops. As well as support of over 55,000 people signing and promoting petitions regarding this Bill.

I also commend the work of organisations such as Australian Christian Lobby, Abortion Rethink, Canberra Declaration and many more for vocally standing against this Bill. Rather than decriminalising abortion, we need to review our attitudes and practices to ensure there are appropriate safeguards for the well-being of the unborn child, the woman, and others impacted by the decision.

We need to address the underlying causes and provide women with real alternatives to unplanned pregnancies that are not going to expose them to further harm.”

(both via e-mail)

Earlier post: Proposed Abortion Law changes in NSW.

Proposed Abortion Law changes in NSW

Update:

We understand that the proposed bills are likely to be debated this week – on Thursday 11th May.

Important news:

“Two NSW Private Member’s Bills relating to abortion may be debated in the NSW Parliament in the next month.

One in particular will completely remove any legal regulation of abortions in the State. It will also have serious consequences for religious freedom and free speech. …

This Bill was introduced into Parliament on 11 August, 2016, by Dr Mehreen Faruqi, Greens MLC. If enacted it would make sweeping changes to the law of abortion in NSW. It would allow the killing of an unborn child at any stage prior to birth.

It would impose a serious burden on the religious freedom of medical practitioners who have a conscientious objection to abortion. It would also seriously impede rights of religious freedom and free speech of those who would wish to protest against abortion near abortion clinics…

– At Law and Religion Australia, Neil Foster, Associate Professor in Law at Newcastle, discusses proposed abortion law changes in NSW which, if passed into law, would have far-reaching consequences. (Emphasis added.)

Related:

The Australian Christian Lobby describes the first bill as “The Worst Abortion Laws… Ever.” and is one of the groups organising petitions to the President and Members of the Legislative Council.

If you wish to sign their petition, please note the important information to ensure it is acceptable.

Christians under siege, religious freedom inquiry hears

“A Melbourne IT specialist engaged to work on the Safe Schools program was sacked after privately expressing concerns about the contentious initiative during a staff meeting, with his employer later accusing him of ‘creating an unsafe work environment’. …

His predicament is just one of several cases of discrimination ­alleged by Christians or opponents of same-sex marriage that have come to light as part of the inquiry, which, in the wake of the Coopers Brewery fiasco, has heightened concerns about free speech and a growing intolerance towards traditional views.”

– Report from today’s The Australian.

Can kids tell other kids about Jesus at school?

“Astonishingly, the answer to the question posed here, recently provided by the Queensland Department of Education and Training is: No!

In their latest reviews of material used in Special Religious Instruction (SRI) offered in public schools in that State, they assert as follows:

While not explicitly prohibited by the [relevant legislation], nor referenced in the [Departmental published] RI policy statement, the Department expects schools to take appropriate action if aware that students participating in RI are evangelising to students who do not participate in their RI class, given this could adversely affect the school’s ability to provide a safe, supportive and inclusive environment for all students.

(This statement is found both in the Report on the Review of the GodSpace Religious Instruction Materials, March 2017, at para 3.1.1 on p 5, and in the Report on the Review of the ACCESS ministries’ Religious Instruction Materials, Feb 2017, at para 3.1.1 on p 6.)

In this post I want to explain why this over-reaching bureaucratic imposition is not justified by the law governing the Department’s activities, and indeed is probably illegal. …”

– Posted a few days ago, Neil Foster, Associate Professor in Law at Newcastle, gives his opinion on directives from the Queensland Department of Education and Training.

Australian Presbyterians — Taking God Seriously


Presbyterian Moderator-General John Wilson outlines some of the ways Presbyterians in Australia plan to celebrate Reformation 500 – with evangelism!

See the video here. (3’42”)

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