Religious Freedom in Australia

31 May 2019

3.4 MINS

As freedom of religion is a basic human right protected by international law, it is important that Australian law similarly protects religious freedom. It is important to protect freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of belief and freedom of assembly in relation to religion. Most cultures, including Indigenous cultures, value this freedom.

Christians are increasingly being criticized, even persecuted, in the public square. As Christians, we are taught to turn the other cheek (Sermon on the Mount, Matt 5:39) i.e. not to retaliate or take revenge. However, in the Sermon on the Mount, we are also called to be the salt of the earth and not lose our flavour or witness and to be the light of the world and not hide our light under a bushel. We are not to retreat from the public square; not to hide in the shadows; but to shine the light of the gospel into situations. And to shine the light of our lives into the life of our nation.

We would like to make a number of points:

  1. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM NOT PROTECTED ENOUGH IN SSM LEGISLATION

Of the 48% of eligible Australian voters who supported same-sex marriage (SSM), many did so in the belief that religious freedoms would be protected.

However, even the most basic religious protection amendments were defeated. They included:

  • Religious and conscientious protections for celebrants;
  • Freedom of expression and recognition of legitimate beliefs;
  • Protections for charities;
  • Non-discrimination in Government funding;
  • Protection of religious bodies and schools; and
  • Parents to have the right to withdraw children from certain classes.
  1. MINISTERS OF RELIGION AND CHRISTIAN BUSINESSES

We would urge that these protections be provided as soon as possible in legislation that comes from recommendations of the Religious Freedom Review. While ministers of religion are currently able to decline to perform SSM marriages, we need protection that this will not change in the future. For instance, gay marriages were legalised in Sweden in 2009, with exemptions for ministers, but in June 2018, Sweden’s Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, said priests should be forced to perform gay weddings.

Freedom of conscience means citizens should have the right not to be compelled by the State to participate in things they believe are morally wrong. Same sex marriage is not an internationally recognized human right. Under recent SSM legislation, Christian business people would be forced to participate in gay weddings, with threat of legal action. There are dozens of examples from countries where gay marriage has been legalised of anti-discrimination laws being used to fine, fire or bankrupt Christian business people for doing no more than politely declining to participate in a gay wedding.

  1. TEACHING TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Teaching traditional marriage should not constitute hate speech. Consider the case of Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous who, in 2015, had to appear before Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commission for teaching the Christian view of marriage. If this can occur when you consider that Archbishop Porteous was taken to court for upholding the legal view of marriage, what protections are there now for churches and Christian schools teaching this now the traditional view of marriage has been changed by law. This attacks freedom of belief and conscience of Christians including ordinary citizens who are Christians expressing a view over coffee.

  1. PARENTAL CONCERNS

Many Australian parents are very concerned by the Safe Schools program which encourages primary school students to imagine they are homosexuals and instructs students on anal sex and “penis tucking”. This is inappropriate sexualizing of children at a young age. Such lessons should not be insisted upon for all schools. Christian schools that refuse to teach LGBTIQ lifestyles should not be threatened with closure as is already happening in Western countries that have legalised gay marriage.

In June 2016, Vishnitz Orthodox girls’ school in North London was one of seven faith-based schools threatened with closure for refusing to teach gay and transgendered lifestyles to students as it had failed its duty to give students “a full understanding of fundamental British values” because they had not taught children LGBT lifestyles. This is despite the Education Department acknowledging that the school’s academic results were outstanding and that the school taught respect for all people.

  1. EMPLOYMENT OF CHRISTIANS THREATENED

In 2012 Victoria’s Deputy Chief Psychiatrist, Kuruvilla George, was forced to resign from his job when it became known he believed children needed a mother and a father. Prominent politicians, including members of the Greens, argued that such views precluded him from being able to care for gay people in the community. Earlier this year LGBTI activists campaigned on social media for IBM to sack their Sydney-based managing partner, Mark Allaby. Allaby’s crime was to work for a Christian organisation that holds a Biblical view of marriage. Activists argued that since IBM was a supporter of gay marriage, they should not employ someone who wasn’t. Christians should not be pressured to disassociate themselves with churches or face losing their jobs.

CONCLUSION

To their credit, the Rudd Government changed more than 80 pieces of legislation to remove discrimination under the law against gay people. We do not support discrimination against people based on their sexuality. If you value freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of association and the freedom to educate children according to Christian values, as most Australians do, you need to stand up and be counted.

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12 Comments

  1. Judith Nightingale 31 May 2019 at 10:27 am - Reply

    Wow! What an excellent article. Thank you Pastors and Norman Miller for expounding the rights of Austraians to have their Religious Freedom protected..

  2. Stephanie 3 June 2019 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    How can I help ????????♥️

  3. Barbara Miller 7 June 2019 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your comments. Please pray and spread the word. A religious freedom act may be the first item on the government’s agenda when parliament resumes. Also pray for Israel Folau’s appeal.

  4. Jonathan Rohrlach 8 June 2019 at 12:01 am - Reply

    Well done on the above article, may God’s blessings and protection be on all people who follow God’s Word in truth, upholding these important matters, including marriage of one man and one woman only. The Lord God’s Design Is Eternally Perfect, Never needs updating to our thinking, for He is far above human kind in Power, Intelligence etc etc, The Lord and Messiah, The Creator of The Universe, Has Set Everything Everything up Perfectly from The Beginning, Creation week, (some 6000+ years ago..) so who are we to be playing with His designs, laws, His Word .. NO other powers in any form, in the entire Universe, can come close to Almighty God, though evil persists through people, it will be dealt with in God’s perfect time.. All Praise, Thanks, Honour and Glory belong only to God our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ The Son, and The Holy Spirit, forever and always. When we Choose to Trust, Love and Follow God in Everything, We Will be Blessed with The Best Life possible here on this current Earth. The Bible / God’s Word, is full of Life -giving Words to guide, help and Bless us daily.. .

  5. Janet Rowan 8 June 2019 at 7:17 am - Reply

    Excellent article

  6. Janet Rowan 8 June 2019 at 7:17 am - Reply

    An excellent article

  7. Monica Bennett-Ryan 8 June 2019 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    Powerful, wonderful article. I’m posting it on social media.

  8. wendy Bourke 8 June 2019 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    Joining with people on line to pray for the elections was a new experience or me. I loved the feeling of being connected with like minded people.

  9. Bronwyn 8 June 2019 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    I agree!

  10. Sophie 12 June 2019 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    THIS COUNTRY I THOUGHT WAS A CHRISTAIN, SAD, EVERYONE PUTTING THEIR FLAG UP, MY SON SAYS SOME MINORITY HAVE TAKEN THE FLAG DOWN * PUT THEIR FLAF UP! WHAT A SHAME, WE HAVE TO LIFT THE CROSS HIGHER & HIGHER, I LOVE THE CROSS! FOR WHAT JESUS CHRIST HAS DONE FOR ME.& WHO EVER CALLS UPON HIS LOVING NAME! FOR ROMAN CATHOLIC!

    https://www.facebook.com/sophie.fernandes.50

  11. Sherna 7 July 2019 at 8:26 am - Reply

    Great article, thank you Norman! How about… instead of more legislation to protect our inherent and fundamental human rights (freedom of religion, speech, conscience etc) which are already clear in international law, we should repeal every law that limits them, like 18C. Anti-discrimination laws are effectively doing the opposite of what they claim as they are used to punish anyone who does not agree with the current groupthink. If a religious freedom act is passed it will limit our inherent freedoms and is open to being changed in the future and our freedoms further eroded. The government has NO business in legislating away one iota of our freedoms – international covenants even have this caveat – they knew the temptation for governments to abuse their power and specified that they could not take them away. Cue the communists with their long march through our institutions, and their twisted reasoning for anti-discrimination laws to control us. Every such law must go if we want Australia to be free.

  12. […] Miller made a giant boomerang promoting religious freedom. It has FREEDOM in the centre and RELIGION and SPEECH on the sides. He also painted a large yellow […]

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