Conservatives urged to speak up on religious freedom

February 02, 2018

Australian Conservatives is encouraging Australians concerned about the future of religious freedom in our nation to make a submission to the Expert Panel review. 

In the wake of the Labor, Liberal and Greens parties legislating to re-define marriage, the Prime Minister created an Expert Panel on Religious Freedom led by the Hon Philip Ruddock to review the status of religious freedom in Australia.

Whilst the review was initiated after the redefinition of marriage, the review is not confined to the consequences for religious freedom on that issue alone. The terms of reference are broad enough to relate to any concerns Australians have about religious freedom.

The Panel is currently seeking submissions from members of the public.

Some of the threats to religious freedom include:

  • Faith-based institutions - Attempts to restrict the public presence, participation, statements, faith-based practices or tax-deductible status of faith-based institutions, such as churches or faith-based charities. 
  • Faith-based schools – The removal or restriction of government funding for faith-based schools (e.g. Catholic or independent schools), the placing of conditions on funding so long as such schools comply with politically correct directives, and the ability of schools to only employ those who are compatible with the school’s faith base.
  • Individuals with faith convictions including service providers – Attempts to force private individuals of deeply held beliefs to act contrary to their beliefs. This includes compelling photographers, bakers, florists and others to provide services, in connection with a same-sex marriage ceremony or otherwise face fines, and refusals by universities or professional bodies to enrol, graduate, accredit or allow religious freedom on campus for individuals with strong beliefs contrary to the politically correct agenda of those bodies.
  • Health professionals – The requirements for doctors, nurses and other health professionals to lose their right to conscientious objection, for instance a requirement to be involved in - or take active steps to assist people in obtaining - abortion, euthanasia and other controversial medical procedures.

  • Parental rights – The implications for parents to continue teaching their children in accordance with their family's belief system in the face of increasing government intervention in child-rearing and early development. This includes curricula revised to diminish respect for many Australians' beliefs, and failures to give parents a prior option to exclude their children from programs in schools or early childhood centres that teach material contrary to family beliefs, especially about sexuality and gender (e.g. the 'Safe Schools' program).

  • Advocacy – Limits placed on freedom to express opinions about important issues such as marriage and gender, via the silencing effect of vilification or anti-discrimination laws that, for instance, ban 'offence' or 'insult'.
  • Adverse government actionThe imposition of penalties, removal of funding and denial of registration to religious individuals and groups with politically incorrect convictions. This may also includes the potential for biased reporting by government-funded media organisations against people of faith or faith-based organisations. 

  • No-platforming and silencing – The actions of taxpayer-funded venues or recipients of taxpayer funding (such as universities and advocacy groups) banning or silencing people of religious conviction from hosting, speaking at or attending events, or from having their achievements recognised on public venues (e.g. the controversy over 'Margaret Court Arena')

The unchecked advance of these trends against religious freedom also mean (a) a further increase in the size and intrusiveness of an already bloated State and (b) a waste of resources that could be devoted to many more worthwhile causes.

Australian Conservative members and friends are encouraged to make a submission to the Expert Panel on Religious Freedom to help fight for our freedoms. The due date for submissions is February 14.

The details on how to make a submission - including a web-based form to make a submission - are available at https://pmc.gov.au/domestic-policy/religious-freedom-review.

 

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