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Religious Fre edom Must be Prot ected Says Liberal Senator

Liberal senator James Paterson’s argues in The Guardian (August 25) for immediate attention to be given to religious freedoms protection. Now that the survey has opened it could well be argued that this should have already been addressed. Those against providing religious freedom protection would argue that such changes would change what people are voting on, mid-vote.

“Parliament must decide how to protect religious freedom if same-sex marriage is legalised … The Victorian senator has called for an overhaul of anti-discrimination law…

“The comments escalate an internal dispute between Liberal party conservatives … who argue that freedom of speech and religion are at issue in the postal survey, and moderates including George Brandis and Christopher Pyne, who consider the issues a distraction from the only issue in the poll: same-sex marriage.

“Paterson told the Association for Reformed Political Action that denying a connection between marriage equality and religious liberty would “sidestep the difficult and complex questions this debate raises … There clearly is the potential for the legalisation of same-sex marriage to have flow-on effects for other people’s freedom.”

“He argued it was a matter of when not if same-sex marriage was legalised, saying the yes campaign was likely to win the survey and that Bill Shorten and Labor would legislate marriage equality if it failed.

“He said changing the law “whilst best preserving religious liberty is a task I believe we must now take up … Paterson called the Liberal senator Dean Smith’s private member’s bill a “good starting point” that did the “bare minimum” by allowing religious ministers to refuse same-sex weddings, but also provided protections for religious civil celebrants and religious schools and other venues.

But Paterson said same-sex marriage would have “implications for people of faith who are not directly connected to religious institutions … I firmly believe it is possible for the parliament to allow both same-sex marriage and at the same time preserve the freedoms of those who have a different view. But it is a task we must first agree to take up.”

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