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Friday, September 30, 2022

Legal protection for religion is protection for all of us


Unless we are vigilant, Australians will soon see that clearly any public declaration or practice of religious views – especially Christianity – will be condemned as harmful, hate speech related to gender, sexuality, euthanasia or even history. And that condemnation is likely to be even more bitter.

As matters stand, there is very little protection for religion in Australian law.

Article 116 of the Constitution only sets a limit to what the federal government can do, and there is a patchwork of inconsistent protections for religion in the form of exemptions from discriminatory laws in states and territories.

This is one of the main reasons why the Morrison government is taking steps to enact a religion protection law as promised in the 2019 election of the Prime Minister.

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash is close to finalizing the government’s Religious Discrimination Bill to present the draft to parliament later this year. The Morrison government is keen to keep the issue off the table before the next federal election.

Opponents of the new federal bill say there is already adequate protection for religion – although they cannot identify exactly what it is – although supporters of the bill say the proposed protections do not go far enough.

At the heart of this difference is the important difference between stopping discriminatory measures on the one hand and protecting religious freedom on the other.

An anti-religious discrimination law states that the actions of a religious organization যা rather than those that generally violate the law যদি will be exempted if their actions are faith-based, if their actions are consistent with religion.

For example, churches that oppose the hierarchy of women in religious principles will be exempt from sex discrimination laws and may exclude women from certain selection and recruitment processes.

By making religion a “protected category”, the law surrounds religion and makes some concessions. The government’s proposed bill would give these exemptions at the federal level to say that any rule that adversely affects religious practice must be justified.

In contrast, a completely different approach to protecting religious freedom as a positive right would give a faith-based organization the legally granted freedom to hire employees who support the organization’s religious policy, or refrain from conducting euthanasia, or refuse to provide abortion services.

One of the flaws of the anti-discrimination approach to defending religion is that it can cast religion into a bad light.

Giving apparently preferential treatment to religious Australians in a situation where punishing other people would only increase the hostility of anti-religionists, secular activists who insist that believers have been given special license to be bigoted. Not surprisingly, they resisted any attempt to expand anti-religious discrimination provisions.

And it is not surprising that the faith community and many of its leaders would prefer to enact a new law on religion as a protection of religious freedom: in other words, as a law that upholds a positive right to religious freedom, that is, to protect against discrimination. Legal “sword” to protect religious freedom without being “ieldal”.

However, in order not to be the enemy of the perfect good, it is much better for the Attorney-General Cash to present a realistic bill in Parliament, which is a good chance of being passed instead of an ideal bill that will be voted on.

Lawyers and religious leaders may argue about the way legal protections are made, but at least it is better to be armed with a sword than not.

And such realistic legal protections are still likely to be popular at the ballot box. A recent survey conducted by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) found that about two-thirds of us want to legally protect religious beliefs.

The ACL survey found that approximately 5 percent support the legalization of protection for questionable believers. The right of trust-based schools to recruit sympathetic staff is supported by about one hundred percent. And more than 50 percent support the right of faith-based organizations, such as hospitals, to get out of procedures such as abortion or euthanasia, which is contrary to their basic religious principles.

ACL voting time is important. But at the end of the day, the law can only go so far as to protect religious freedom. Reliance on parliament and the courts to resolve differences only prompts each party to put more pressure on them to secure the results of their choice which becomes a zero-sum game.

But Australia is a successful multicultural society with people of all faiths and none. As such, we must allow different views of both sacred and secular views and beliefs to be expressed and learn to respect the worldviews and preferences of those whom we can never agree with.

Each of us has a responsibility to help protect the health of our citizens – a job we should never completely outsource to governments and judges.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the author and The Epoch Times.


The Reverend Peter Kurti is the director of the Culture, Prosperity and Civil Society program at the Center for Independent Studies in Sydney, Australia. He is an assistant professor of law at the University of Notre Dame in Australia and has written extensively on religion, freedom and civil society.


This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

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