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WHAT IS ALL THE FUSS BEHIND THE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DEBATE

By | Australian Newsletter

While we might have expected the Ruddock Review into Religious Freedom to have enhanced religious freedoms, in the absence of the government adopting any of its recommendations, the ALP introduced a Bill into the Senate in the last sitting week to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to remove the freedoms religious bodies currently enjoy which allow them to teach and run their institutions according to their religious beliefs. Fortunately that Bill was delayed and probably will go to a committee for consideration. In the meantime, Bill Shorten introduced an identical Bill into the House of Representatives which fortunately has also been delayed and will not now be considered until Parliament resumes in February.

The bills would remove the freedoms of:

  • religious schools and parents who send their children there
  • religious adult colleges and training institutions for missionaries, chaplains and religious workers (including theological colleges); and
  • all religious bodies like churches, mosques, synagogues and temples to provide education services to their members and the public through sermons, religious education classes for children, youth or adults and courses on issues like marriage, family and relationships.

This is an assault against the fundamental principles of freedom of speech and religion which are the basis of a properly functioning democracy. It would make illegal the teaching of religious principles which don’t subscribe to the secular worldview that transgenderism is perfectly good and same-sex or transgender relationships or “marriage” is as equally valid as traditional marriage.

The bills would make it illegal to take any action to uphold the religious sensibilities of faith-based institutions which currently allows them to discriminate against people on the grounds of, for example, someone in an openly homosexual relationship or someone identifying as transgender or advocating for transgenderism in a school. This bill would even restrict religious institutions from teaching their biblically-based position on heterosexual sexual relations outside of marriage.  Editor’s note: This may not be the intention of the legislation proposed by Bill Shorten (as claimed by Mr Shorten), but according to legal advice it will be the outcome of such legislation as currently drafted.

I am forwarding this serious warning and call to action to you from Professor Mark Sneddon, Adjunct Professor of Law Monash University; Executive Director, Institute for Civil Society and Legal; and Partner at Holley Nethercote Lawyers. This warning and call to action refers to religious freedom debate in the Federal Parliament. If passed, this law change will curtail your freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Letter of advice given to Christian Schools Australia by Professor Mark Sneddon Adjunct Professor of Law at Monash University.

You are probably aware that the Senate has been debating an ALP Bill to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to remove existing exemptions for religion and restrict the freedom of religious schools. What you may not be aware of is that this Bill has much wider effects. It will also:

  • restrict the freedoms of religious adult education colleges including theological colleges and religious institutions for training missionaries, chaplains, youth workers etc; and
  • apply to the acts and practices of a religious body (such as a church, temple, mosque or synagogue) which are connected with the provision of education by that body, this would seem broad enough to include sermons, and any education based on the Bible, the Koran, the Torah and other scriptures to adults, youth and children in the religious body, whether general scripture education or education applied to topics like relationships, marriage and sexuality.

At time of writing the Bill seems likely to pass the Senate, perhaps with some government amendments. It would then move to the House of Representatives later next week where the government does not have a guaranteed majority and it may pass that house also, becoming law.

The purpose of this email is to alert you to the wider application of the Bill for religious freedom and to ask you to tell your people and to contact your Senators and MHRs urgently to oppose this Bill.

Some examples of the Bill’s effects are as follows.

1. Religious schools and theological and adult training colleges

If a religious school, theological college or adult education institutions acting on the basis of its religious beliefs:

  • refuses to admit students or expel them or impose any other detriment on a student because of the student’s relationship status, sexual orientation or gender identity;
  • refuses permission for a sexually active student (straight or gay) or gender transitioning student to run a club or publish posters or webpages at the school or college advocating for sex outside marriage (straight or gay) or fluid gender ideology; or
  • refuses permission for a same sex oriented student to take a same sex romantic partner to a school or college function; or
  • requires a male student who wishes to publicly identify as female and whose appearance is male and has not had sex reassignment or cosmetic surgery to use the male change rooms and toilets rather than the female ones, and to be addressed by the male pronoun;
  • the school or college is “subjecting the student to a detriment” on the grounds of relationship status or sexual orientation or gender identity and can be sued under s.21 of the Sex Discrimination Act.

2. Religious bodies like churches, mosques, synagogues and temples engaging in acts or practices in connection with the provision of education by the body e.g. sermons, religious instruction, scripture classes

A religious body could discriminate in the provision of education services by it (or the facilities through which they are provided) under s.22 of the Act in several ways:

(a) by the manner in which the religious body provides the other person with those services or makes those facilities available to the other person (e.g. the manner of the sermon or scripture teaching is discriminatory because the content of the teaching based on sacred scriptures is critical of same sex marriage or of the behaviour of those having sex outside marriage (straight or gay) but not of other forms of sexual behaviour, or because the teaching criticises the idea and practice of gender transitioning).

(b) by refusing to provide a person with those services or to make those facilities available to the other persons (e.g. the religious body provides separate training on marriage, relationships and sexuality to men only and women only groups, or refuses to provide training on relationships to people known to be actively engaged in extramarital sex);

(c)  in the terms or conditions on which the religious body provides the other person with those services or makes those facilities available (e.g. the religious body requires attendees at the training to affirm that they are living godly lives in accordance with the teachings of the religion including on relationships and sexuality).

Such discrimination can lead to a complaint and lawsuit under the Sex Discrimination Act if the Bill is passed.

Additional Resources

I have written in my capacity as the Executive Director of the Institute for Civil Society and you can also find a copy of this paper and our other work on the issue at www.i4cs.com.au  and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/institute4civilsociety/

Freedom for Faith’s Facebook page has recent posts on this issue including posts from pastors and others about their conversations with and letters written to MPs protesting about this Bill – see https://www.facebook.com/freedomforfaith/

Professor Neil Foster has some excellent recent blogs on this Bill and the Coalition’s proposed amendments at his Law and Religion blog:

https://lawandreligionaustralia.blog/2018/12/01/government-amendments-to-religious-schools-bill/

The Gospel Coalition presents a Christian perspective on the Bill at https://au.thegospelcoalition.org/article/religious-freedom-immediate-threat/

The Coalition Senator’s dissenting report in the Senate Committee inquiry into exemptions and faith based schools is a useful resource – Legislative exemptions that allow faith-based educational institutions to discriminate against students, teachers and staff

Please consider carefully, pray and act.

The position of cross-bench Senators and MHRs will be important. If you are able to contact them that would be most helpful.

Kind regards,

Professor Mark Sneddon
Adjunct Professor of Law Monash University
Executive Director, Institute for Civil Society
Principal Sneddon Legal and Partner Holley Nethercote Lawyers

Source: Mark Spencer, Executive Officer Policy, Governance and Staff Relations Christian Schools Australia Limited

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CALL FOR DAILY PRAYER OVER ISSUES FACING OUR NATION

By | Australian Newsletter

Many prayer networks in our nation are calling Christians to set aside time each day to pray for Australia over the many issues that are currently before our Federal Parliament and facing our nation, many of which are contentious and have the capacity to take our nation down the path of radical societal change affecting our religious freedom, freedom of speech and the economic and cultural future of our nation.

The plan is for folk to pray for as long as they feel led by the Spirit of God for our nation at the times of 7.00AM, 12 Noon and 7.00PM just as Daniel prayed for Jerusalem. Most networks are calling for daily prayer until 21st December, but we the Australian Prayer Network, would encourage our members to engage each and every day until the Spirit of God gives you release to move on from this commitment. We will not bow our knees to evil decrees but like Daniel we will bow our knees in prayer to our God in heaven.

Please pray:

  • for revival and transformation for our nation.
  • that Australia would be awakened to Christ.
  • for Godly and stable government
  • for renewal within the church and an out pouring of the Holy Spirit.
  • for an awakening to the importance of faith, family, Life and freedom in our government and in our nation.

Martin Luther said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Mother Teresa said, “God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil.” Let us put this inspiration into action.  Our nation is in serious trouble and the one thing we can do is to follow the example of Daniel who got down on his knees three times a day to pray and seek God on behalf of the land.

Source: Australian Prayer Network

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ROLE OF TEACHERS IS TO TEACH NOT TRANISITION CHILDREN

By | Australian Newsletter

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is gravely concerned that New South Wales teachers are being taught how to identify gender confused children and to support them through the transition process.  “Of the 1% of children who suffer from gender dysphoria over 80% resolve to their birth sex during puberty. We cannot expect teachers, with no medical or psychological training to identify the 0.2% of children for whom this will remain an issue,” said Kieren Jackson, ACL’s state director.  “Experts agree the transgender agenda is incredibly harmful to a child’s physical and mental development, particularly when they begin taking puberty blockers and hormones.”

“Considering we are facing a national epidemic with 42 per cent of 15-year old’s failing to meet minimum national standards in maths and literacy, teachers should be more concerned about teaching children than transitioning them.” ACL  will be writing to the Education Minister Rob Stokes to raise this issue with him and urge him to consider more stringent management of educational courses for teachers which can negatively impact the wellbeing of children,” commented Mr Jackson.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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UNIVERSITY CHIEFS UNITE TO DEFEND FREE SPEECH

By | Australian Newsletter

Leading university heads have warned of the urgent need to take a stand against encroaching threats to free speech across Australia’s tertiary institutions, including US-inspired boycotts of speakers and classroom “trigger warnings” about details that might upset students,  with one high-profile chancellor dis­avowing the notion that campuses should be “safe spaces”.  University of Western Sydney chancellor Peter Shergold has warned that attacks on free speech are a relatively recent development in Australia and university governing bodies should be prepared to make tough decisions to defend the integrity of their institutions.

Speaking following a robust panel discussion on the topic at the University Chancellors Council annual conference in Adelaide, Dr Shergold said his personal view was that universities should default to a position of enabling “as much freedom as possible, not to constrain, not to control”.  “Universities need safe spaces for students, be they LGBTI or Muslim, where they can go and talk to each other,” said Dr Shergold, the council’s chairman.  “But university campuses cannot be safe spaces in terms of ideas.  “People should be challenged by ideas, see a diversity of ideas.  That’s the heart of the institutional ethos of a university.”

Dr Shergold’s comments, which come amid mounting concerns that universities are increasingly becoming closed intellectual shops, prone to groupthink and the censoring of diverse ideas, were echoed by Australian National University chancellor Gareth Evans.  While Mr Evans has recently been forced to defend the university’s decision to withdraw from plans for a new degree in Western civilisation,  which was to have been funded by the John Howard chaired Ramsay Centre, he too slammed the emerging phenomenon of staff and students seeking to shut down debate under the premise that people should not be exposed to ideas with which they disagreed.

“We are hearing about ‘no-platforming’ disinviting or shouting down visiting speakers espousing various heresies; about the need for ‘trigger warnings’ alerting students to potentially upsetting racially, politically or gender sensitive themes,” Mr Evans said.  “Most disconcerting of all, the need for ‘safe spaces’, where students can be completely insulated from anything that may assault their sense of what is moral and appropriate.”  Institute of Public Affairs research fellow Matthew Lesh cited recent publicised threats to free speech such as opposition to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

ANU staff and students have accused the Ramsey Centre of pushing a “racist” and “radically conservative agenda”.  There have also been violent protests over psychologist Bettina Arndt’s appearance at the University of Sydney.  These were just “the tip of the iceberg”, Mr Lesh said. He told the conference that the proliferation of social justice policies around cultural inclusion, global citizenship and sustainability were to blame for restraining free speech.  “I speak to academics and students at your institutions almost every day, the tell me about a worrying culture of censorship,” he said.

“Australia’s universities are lacking in viewpoint diversity — a range of perspectives challenging each other in the pursuit of reason, truth and progress.  This leads to groupthink, self-censorship, and sometimes active shouting down.”  He said universities had a choice between either encouraging free inquiry or treading a social justice path and seeking to “change the world”  but choosing the latter would “not only undermine academic scholarship and student learning, it could be seriously damaging to the reputation and viability of the institutions”.

Mr Evans said it wasn’t only universities that were at risk, referring to the decision by the Brisbane Writers Festival to disinvite former NSW premier Bob Carr and feminist Germaine Greer as “absurd to the point of indefensibility”.  Joking that he was perhaps an “unreconstructed child of the 1960s”, the former Labor senator and foreign affairs minister said principles of “timeless significance” were at stake and university administrators and governing bodies “simply must take a stand”.  “Lines have to be drawn, and spines stiffened, against un­conscionable demands for protection against ideas and arguments claimed to be offensive,” Mr Evans said.

“Keeping alive the great tradition of our universities, untrammelled autonomy and freedom of speech, is a cause for which university chancellors should be prepared to fight.”  Concern about the impacts of growing campus activism has been on the political radar for some months.  Education Minister Dan Tehan recently proposed to the Group of Eight universities that measures to protect freedom of thought and expression should be considered, such as requiring student activists who sought to disrupt an event to pay for additional security costs.  He expressed concerns that in the case of Sydney University, event organisers were being levied with the bill.

Steven Schwartz, a former vice-chancellor at three universities in Australia and Britain, said: “Today’s university students will grow up to be tomorrow’s lawyers, politicians, and judges.  For the sake of our democracy, we cannot allow a generation of graduates to grow up believing that there are issues that are too dangerous to discuss.  “Expanding the meaning of words such as ‘violence’, ‘aggression’ and ‘traumatic’ to describe speech provides universities with a spurious excuse for censorship.”  Professor Schwartz said if universities failed to defend free speech, governments might intervene: “I am sure they will not like the result.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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MAJORITY BACK LAWS TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

By | Australian Newsletter

A clear majority of Australians, including nearly 60% of Labor voters, back new laws to prevent individuals, schools and companies from being discriminated against because of their religious beliefs and practices.  The special Newspoll, comes as the government weighs up its response to a review into religious freedom conducted by former Liberal attorney-general Philip Ruddock and commissioned in the wake of the successful same-sex marriage plebiscite last November.  The Newspoll shows 59% of those surveyed were in favour of new laws to protect individuals, schools and companies because of their religious beliefs compared with 26% opposed to change.

About 65% of Coalition voters support a strengthening of protections for religious freedoms; 57% of Labor voters also backed the need for more robust protections.  Greens voters also overwhelmingly backed new laws to protect religious freedoms, with 63% saying they were in favour of change compared with 50% of One Nation voters.  The results show that support among all the key political parties is running in favour of legislating stronger protections for religious freedoms.  Despite the poll, a parliamentary committee has proposed the removal of key protections for faith-based educators from anti-discrimination laws.

A Senate inquiry examining the treatment of gay students and teachers at religious schools recommended the removal of an exemption at section 38(3) of the Sex Discrimination Act.  This exemption currently allows faith-based schools the ability to discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, although it is not used for this purpose by religious schools.  The Senate committee also recommended that “further consideration” be given to amending the Sex Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination by faith-based educators against gay teachers and staff.

Attorney-General Christian Porter has made it clear that the government will support the removal of the exemption in the Sex Discrimination Act allowing schools the ability to discriminate against students.  However, he will not remove the exemption that exists for teachers.  This section allows religious schools to discriminate against staff on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy, but again it is not used for this purpose.  Faith-based educators have argued that the exemption gives them the legal protection to insist on the employment of staff who uphold the fundamental religious mission of the school.

Faith-based educators have attacked the present system of exemptions, saying they discredit religious freedoms by framing them as a “negative right”.  This means religious schools are given the ability only to “discriminate” in key situations.  The committee has addressed this deficiency by recommending that “consideration be given to inserting in law a positive affirmation and protection of religious freedom in Australia that is appropriately balanced with other rights”.  Faith-based bodies have argued for religious freedoms to be expressed as a “positive right” in federal law, an action that would fundamentally reframe religious freedom protections.

It is also possible that the government will seek to introduce a Religious Discrimination Act, one of the key recommendations of the Ruddock review in a bid to reframe the current system of protections.  The committee also recommended “that the government immediately release to the public the full report and findings of the Religious Freedom Review” led by Mr Ruddock.  Some Christian schools have warned they will face an existential threat and could face claims of direct discrimination for promoting a biblical view of marriage if the exemptions were removed from the Sex Discrimination Act.

The issue of religious freedom is likely to gain traction in the ALP’s traditional heartland, with the opposition holding nine seats in Western Sydney that voted against same-sex marriage in last year’s postal plebiscite.  These included the electorates of senior opposition frontbenchers Chris Bowen, Tony Burke and Jason Clare, whose seat of Blaxland recorded the strongest ‘No’ vote against same-sex marriage of 73.9 per cent.  Newspoll indicates that 15% of the population is uncommitted on whether new laws are needed to better protect religious freedoms.  The results were based on a sample size of 1717 voters.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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BAN SEXUALISED ADVERTISING FOR OUR CHILDREN’S SAKE

By | Australian Newsletter

The Advertising Standards Bureau has received new complaints about a now infamous store which consistently objectifies and degrades women in its advertising.   The Australian Christian Lobby’s Centre for Human Dignity director Wendy Francis said that “Honey Birdette continues to ignore upheld complaints from Ad Standards, as well as increased backlash from the community.”  “This is not the first time the store has been publicly scrutinised.  They have a track record of exploiting women through their advertising and blatantly displays their ads in shopping centres which are particularly harmful to children.”

“Our kids are being unnecessarily exposed to sexualised and degrading images of women in public places.  There is overwhelming evidence of the short and long-term effects sexualised advertising has on children, making this an issue the government should urgently address,” commented Wendy Francis.   The Centre for Human Dignity is urging the government to consider extending their advertising ban to include sexualised advertising for the welfare and safety of our children.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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DECISIVE ACTION IS REQUIRED AS ADVANCE AUSTRALIA IS LAUNCHED

By | Australian Newsletter

Over the past decade, a growing sense of unease has been felt by an increasing number of Australians about the direction in which our country has been heading.  Our country has been slowly drifting further and further away from our mainstream values and freedoms.  This has occurred not because of any single momentous event, but rather through a series of incremental changes pushed through by the left-wing activists without the peoples permission or say-so. Today, that stops.  They now have a voice to take back control according to Gerard Benedet the national director of Advance Australia.

This steady shift to the left can be witnessed in any number of policy areas from energy and education through to the corrosive effects of identity politics on our national debate.  Inch by inch, the left has steadily made gains while mainstream Australia has been left voiceless.  For over a decade our country has drifted off course.  The common sense basics we take for granted, like freedom of speech, free markets, smaller government, family values and community ethics, have been slowly replaced.  In their place is the politics of race, class culture, power, gender and victimhood.

There is a growing force of cultural elites, foreign money and left wing activists who are dictating our political and social environment.  At first the effects don’t seem that important, but over time, drastic and decisive action is required in order to get the aircraft back on course.  Mainstream values have been the foundation of Australia’s growth and development as a western liberal democracy.  Our forefathers’ steadfast pursuit of mainstream values has brought us to where we are today, a strong, safe and free nation.  Until recently, the centre-right of Australian politics, with the help of the silent majority, has successfully defended these foundations.

This is no longer the case.  A recent survey of Australians found that only 16% of Australians think it is better today than it was 10 years ago.   We’re being over-governed and Australians aren’t able to get ahead due to rising living costs and stagnant wages.  Our federal debt continues to blow out, robbing future generations of the opportunities we enjoyed.  Political correctness is everywhere we turn and little kids are being taught radical gender theories, undermining family values.  We’re told we should be ashamed of our history and our traditions.  More and more Australians are envious of others and their wealth and want it to be taken and redistributed by government.

It’s time to act.  Mainstream values, like the fair go for everyone, are under threat.  And no one in Canberra is able to stop them.   Advance Australia is a movement for the mainstream that will harness the power of new technologies to mobilise Australians to defend our shared values.  Over the past ten years we’ve learned that we cannot simply leave it up to politicians to defend our freedoms.  If we do not make a stand now, we will see another ten years like the last.  It’s time to take back control and make sure your voice is heard.

Compiled by APN from media reports

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IS THIS THE END OF MERIT BASED EMPLOYMENT

By | Australian Newsletter

The Victorian Labor government’s draft gender equality bill to equalise employment in its departments will be the end of merit-based employment, said the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL).  “What we are seeing in Victoria is straight out of the Marxist playbook, people being employed not on their ability, merit or competency but instead on gender,” said Dan Flynn, ACL’s state director.  “The Minister for Women Natalie Hutchins believes that Victoria needs laws to proactively progress gender equality by enshrining targets, action plans and reporting into law.  Rather than hiring staff based on their ability, this bill will force departments to fill jobs based on quotas.”  “I’m concerned that this bill will mean the end of competency in the workplace, in favour of identity politics,” commented Mr Flynn.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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TASMANIA’S LOWER HOUSE PASSES SWEEPING TRANSGENDER LAWS

By | Australian Newsletter

Tasmania’s lower house has passed the nation’s most sweeping transgender rights laws, including requiring parents to “opt in” to have their newborn’s sex recorded on a birth certificate.  Amendments making gender an opt-in option on birth certificates passed Tasmania’s lower house with the support of Labor, the Greens and Liberal speaker Sue Hickey.  The Prime Minister Scott Morrison took to Twitter to criticise the move and said Mr Shorten should bring the matter up at next month’s ALP national conference in Adelaide.  “Labor’s plan to remove gender from birth certificates in Tasmania is ridiculous.  Bill Shorten should step up and commit to put a motion to ALP Federal Conference to outlaw it,” he tweeted.

Compiled by APN from media reports

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FOR SYDNEY READERS

By | Australian Newsletter

This coming weekend at ANZ Stadium in Sydney the following events will be held under the title Jesus Loves Australia.

UNITED WE STAND DAY OF PRAYER

Saturday 1st December 2018  –  10.00AM – 4.00PM

Followed by participants spreading out across Sydney to demonstrate the Gospel love of Jesus

Saturday 1st December 2018  –    4.00PM – 7.00PM

Followed back at ANZ Stadium

Saturday 1st December 2018  –    7.00PM

The Shine Gospel Concert

For more information on all these events go to www.jesuslovesaustralia.com 

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