The federal government in Australia has been told that religious truths should not be barred from the public arena simply because they upset others.
In evidence given to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (PJCHR), church groups have broadly welcomed clauses in the Religious Discrimination Bill that protect “statements of belief”.
First proposed in 2018 following a review into religious freedom, the Bill is being subjected to two separate parliamentary inquiries. The PJCHR and Senate committee are due to report back to Parliament on 4 February.
The Presbyterian Church of Australia’s submission to the PJCHR stated: “Every Christian — whether a cobbler, baker, or politician — should see their life and work informed by their faith.
“The ability to exercise religious convictions in the broad scope of public life is, then, necessary for religious freedom.”
And speaking to the committee on 13 January, Professor Rocque Reynolds of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said: “religions can have hard truths and non-religious statements against religion can be hard truths for people. People might find them offensive, but they’re not intimidatory or threatening”.
Every Christian — whether a cobbler, baker, or politician — should see their life and work informed by their faith.
Commenting on the Bill, Associate Professor Neil Foster, of the church led group Freedom For Faith, observed “it’s not unlawful” for someone to “say things based on their faith which upset other people”.
The proposals are intended to protect the expression of religious belief, allow medical professionals to conscientiously object to certain procedures and allow religious organisations to recruit staff in line with their basis of faith.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who introduced the Bill to Parliament, has said: “Religious freedom is one of the cornerstones of what we are as a country, and it’s important our laws reflect that”.