This Easter as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are reminded of the need for Freedom of Religion more than ever. Freedom of religion is a universal human right to be protected for the benefit of all — but particularly those of the Christian faith.
On 23 February 2022, the Liberals and Nationals joined Labor and the Greens to vote down Mark Latham’s religious freedom bill in the New South Wales Parliament. The Bill was defeated 29-4 with the only supporters being Mark Banasiak (SFF), Robert Borsak (SFF), Fred Nile (CDP) and Mark Latham himself (ONP).
When Latham introduced the bill in 2020, he said:
“Just as it would be wrong to tell the Mardi Gras not to be gay, or to tell an ethnic body not to be ethnic, religious organisations must be allowed to remain religious in their guiding principles and practices.”
The irony, as pointed out many times, is that Latham, who has professed not to be a Christian, has become one of the most notable defenders of religious freedom whilst Scott Morrison et al appear to be ‘fair weather’ Christians, having been spooked into not defending Citipointe school, and previously tennis legend Margaret Court and of course Israel Folau.
There is no question that the fastest growing form of discrimination in our society is against people of religious faith, especially Christians. Most of us are unaware of the extent of religious persecution that still exists throughout the world — particularly of Christians and Jews.
Make no mistake — our religious freedom is ‘at risk’. Many readers would have noticed over recent years the freedom to express and live by religious belief is increasingly being whittled away through legislation in different jurisdictions across Australia.
During the hearings on the religious discrimination bill, there were countless ‘looney-left’ groups suggesting that even though there is a clear gap in protections for religious belief in legislation the proposed bill goes too far — really?
As an apologist in the public square who has been on the verge of receiving attempts to ‘silence the lambs’ on religious beliefs, the real issues are that it is not just the attempt to silence individuals like me that is the problem, but also the chilling effect such actions have on the rest of the believing community and, more broadly, our Australian society.
Julian Porteous, the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, noted that anti-discrimination complaints directed against the expression of religious belief, whether successful or not, have a widespread effect of largely silencing those who share such beliefs out of fear of being hauled before an anti-discrimination tribunal, attacked through social media, and potentially losing their livelihood.
This is the reality we live in. Social media has helped to weaponise anti-discrimination legislation. This is not a good thing for religious communities or for society.
Freedom of religious expression is not just critical for religious communities to flourish, it is also fundamentally important for our democratic system of government, which requires free, honest, and respectful public debate on issues affecting the life and direction of our nation.
As predicted, the much-talked-about and soon-to-be-debated conversion therapy legislation by NSW Independent MP Alex Greenwich will no doubt restrict the expression of religious belief and freedom of conscience.
Education is the start of religious freedom; freedom is vital for faith-based schools to act in such a way so as to protect the integrity of belief within its institutions. It is essential our faith-based schools are free to present the fullness of their beliefs to students and can get a commitment from staff to support and uphold these beliefs even if some may have personal reservations.
This Easter we will see once again the anti-Christian lobby attack, ridicule, demean, and mock, like they did Jesus, those that wish to express and declare their faith in public. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15:17).
It is clear we urgently need a Religious Discrimination Act to protect religious freedom both for individuals and communities of believers. Without such an Act, not only will religious faith continue to be greatly undermined and threatened in Australia, but so too will the very foundation and stability of democracy.
For the Christian tradition, the bodily resurrection was the restoration to life of a transformed body powered by the Spirit as described by Paul and the Gospel authors, that led to the establishment of Christianity.
So here is the good news. Rev. Hon Fred Nile MLC will be ‘resurrecting’ his Religious Freedom Bill which is an Act ‘to amend the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 to prohibit discrimination on the ground of a person’s religious beliefs or religious activities and to prohibit public authorities and officials from subjecting faith-based institutions to detrimental treatment on the ground of faith; and for other purposes.’
The Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms) Bill 2018 will, once the legal drafting team has updated some dates along with a certificate of readiness, will be introduced, God-willing, in May 2022. Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus.
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