Christian leaders, lawyers and lobbyists across Australia are urging people of faith to call on the government to enact a “Religious Freedom” bill, to protect the rights of Australians to free religious expression. Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Liberal Senator for NSW, launched it during a recent speech in Parliament. hg The petition calls for an act that ensures Australians the right to freedom of speech, thought, conscience, religion and religious expression, both publicly and privately; protects Australians from coercion in the area of religion and belief; is limited only by laws around public safety, order, health, morals and fundamental human rights and freedoms; and enables parents to educate and raise their children according to their beliefs.
The government is currently workshopping possible legislation around the issue of religious protection, and a “Religious Discrimination Act” is one of the possible draft legislations that may be brought forward. However many Christian voices, including lawyers from the Human Rights Law Alliance, and the Freedom for Faith lobby group, believe an act focused solely on cases of religious discrimination would not be adequate to protect Australians’ freedoms. In her speech to the Federal Parliament, Senator Fierravanti-Wells said she had been a long-time advocate for people of faith and was determined to see Australians’ freedom of speech protected.
“A religious discrimination act is not sufficient,” she said. “It would be defensive in nature and limited to protecting against acts and practices by others which are discriminatory on the grounds of religion. It is important that Australians of all faiths be free to practise their religion without discrimination. Even those who have no beliefs should be free to express those views.” She said the sacking of Israel Folau by Rugby Australia for his faith-based statements on social media, was an example of the discrimination that Australians should be protected against.
“The Israel Folau issue has heightened already existing concerns about incursions on religious freedom,” she said. “Ordinary people of faith are now, understandably, asking the question: ‘if I quote the Bible, will it get me into trouble?’ This is now the discussion at the kitchen table for Australians who hold religious beliefs.” A petition is now in circulation among Christian groups across the country, and the Senator is also urging people of faith to voice their concerns around the issue of religious freedom with their local Federal Member of Parliament.
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