A crowd of 500 people gathered recently in Western Sydney to hear political and academic speakers address the growing pressure on religious freedom in Australia. The event, organised by Lalor Park-based Anglican minister Mark Tough with the support of various faith and law-based organisations, was held at Blacktown’s Bowman Hall. It attracted a mixture of Christians (including evangelical and Catholic), as well as leaders from the local Sikh and Muslim communities. It was designed to inform, educate and activate people about the issue of how religious freedoms are coming under threat in Australia, and about federal legislation being drafted to address the issue.
Political speakers included former Australian Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, an outspoken Christian and defender of religious freedoms. He spoke of the “madness” of some the litigation being pursued in courts across the nation, in which people of faith are being sued, ostracised, or sacked by employers, for expressing their faith often in very quiet, innocuous ways. Also speaking was the ALP’s Michelle Rowland MP, Federal Member for the local Blacktown seat of Greenway, who urged her audience to write and speak to their local members about their concerns, in order to help politicians take the matter seriously.
Ms Rowland said she believes the issue won’t be decided along party lines, and also spoke of the need for not only a Religious Discrimination Bill, but also a Religious Freedom bill that protects the right of all Australians to practice faith. “We keep hearing about the ‘quiet Australians’, and we need to be people who aren’t so quiet.” John Steenhof, managing director of the Human Rights Law Alliance told stories of individuals who’ve had cases brought against them for of their faith, such as Jason Tey, the West Australian photographer who was sued for discrimination after telling told a lesbian couple that he was a Christian, despite not refusing them his services.
A West Australian couple were labelled as “unsafe” by a foster care agency they’d approached in the hope of being respite carers for young children. Their application to be foster parents was rejected, due to their traditional Christian beliefs about gender and sexuality. The Alliance handed out a brochure on the night, recounting more than 30 different cases of this nature. Event organiser Reverend Tough said it was good to see so many people of faith wanting to get informed about such a vital issue. The Blacktown event represents a growing groundswell of support for religious freedom among Australians of all ages, religious beliefs, and socio-economic backgrounds.
Source: Hope 103.2FM