Protection of free speech ‘in a precarious state’

The Christian think tank Freedom for Faith says the federal religious discrimination act “is not a major reform” (Bigstock)

Christian ministers have been given a legal briefing on the planned overhaul of religious freedom that says it will not address the “precarious” state of freedom of speech on matters of faith and conscience. Source: The Australian.

The briefing, drawn up by a Christian legal think tank, said the main plank of the government’s plan, a federal religious discrimination act, “is not a major reform”.

It pointed out that religious discrimination is already unlawful in all states except New South Wales and South Australia. It welcomed the change because it would fill a gap in federal law and would have provided an additional remedy for sacked rugby player Israel Folau, who is based in NSW.

The briefing, drawn up by the Freedom for Faith think tank, said the government’s plans were “relatively modest” and some big issues had been left to the Australian Law Reform Commission.

Other big issues, such as freedom of speech on matters of faith and freedom of conscience “are not currently on the government’s agenda at all”.

“In the long term, if these big issues are not addressed, the situation for people of faith will continue to deteriorate,” said the briefing, which was prepared by Patrick Parkinson, who chairs the think tank and is dean of law at the University of Queensland.

“The issues around religious freedom are very important to the future of the country,” it said.

“Will we continue to be a successful multicultural society in which faith is respected or an aggressively secular one in which faith is, at best, tolerated?”

The protection of religious free speech in Australia “is in a precarious state”, the briefing said.

Freedom for Faith includes academics and religious leaders from denominations including Anglicans, Baptists and Seventh Day Adventists.

The group has had talks with the Prime Minister’s office about religious freedom but said its briefing for clerics was based only on details that had been made public by the government.

FULL STORY

Faith think tank frees up debate (The Australian

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