PRINT VIEW About us Publications and resources Our member schools School funding Contact us ARCHIVE

Deception on Fre edom of Religion

Paul Kelly, a strong advocate for the ‘No’ case, makes some strong points about the vulnerability of religious institutions in The Australian (13 Sept). This is a most worthwhile read. Here are the key paragraphs:

“The government and parliament, despite years of emotional debate, declined to address the wider religious freedom question. The political class engaged instead in a great pretence: that the only such issue concerned the wedding ceremony and protections in the Marriage Act for clergy and celebrants, an extremely narrow view of religious freedom.

“Given legalisation of same-sex marriage means the laws of the state and laws of most religions will be brought into direct conflict over society’s most essential institution, the one certainty is ongoing legal and political trench warfare over the balance between acceptance of the same-sex marriage norm and the scope for freedom of belief and religion.

“While some aspects of the No case are obnoxious, its warnings about religious freedoms risks are entirely valid.

“The first point is that religious freedom guarantees in this country are inadequate. This was agreed and documented in February’s Senate select committee report. Unlike many Western nations, Australia has no statutory expression of a stand-alone right to religious freedom. There are far greater legal protections in relation to sexual orientation than in relation to religious belief.

“This is an anomaly given that under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights freedom of religion is an inviolable right. The risk now is our parliament undermining Australia’s commitment to the ICCPR.”

“What was the reaction of the Turnbull government and Labor to the Senate report …[A report that canvassed and supported enshrining religious guarantees as a protected attribute in federal anti-discrimination law]? It varied between disregard and contempt. The reason is apparent — politics. Labor has abandoned any interest in addressing the inadequacy of religious protection laws with its embrace of the LGBTI cause. As for the Coalition, the story is the weakness of its conservative caucus. The deeper point is the churches are vulnerable and the politicians know it.

“The second core conclusion is that this battle over rights will continue after same-sex marriage is legislated.

“We are being put on notice. You would have to be politically blind to deny the reality (an option many politicians have deliberately chosen). The post-same-sex marriage battle is already under way. This is because while many people genuinely see same-sex marriage as an issue of non-discrimination, this was never its essence. It is an ideological cause seeking fundamental changes in Western society, laws and norms. It will continue apace after the law is changed.

“We are being put on notice. You would have to be politically blind to deny the reality (an option many politicians have deliberately chosen). The post-same-sex marriage battle is already under way. This is because while many people genuinely see same-sex marriage as an issue of non-discrimination, this was never its essence. It is an ideological cause seeking fundamental changes in Western society, laws and norms. It will continue apace after the law is changed.

“That [balancing ‘at tension’ human rights] hasn’t happened in Australia, not even remotely. Every sign is Australia will legalise same-sex marriage devoid of any serious attention to religious freedom issues and, as a result, religious protections will be exposed and sacrificed.

“The politicians are doing this because they think they can get away with it. They are entitled to that judgment. What they are not entitled to is a gross deception. The assurances they give on religious protection are worthless — their inaction proves that. People, regardless of how it affects their vote, need to know the reality.”

Click here for the full article.

Back to newsletter index