It’s critically important that we make our voice heard, especially when it’s being asked for. The government is now asking what we think about Freedom of Religion in Australia? Is it real? Is it on paper only?
Here’s my submission. If you agree, please add your name to the petition at the bottom, and I’ll include it when I send the following.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit my views whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion.
I note that existing state anti-discrimination tribunals and the Human Rights Commission have become tools of lawfare, weaponised by one side of political philosophy against the other. Clearly, progressing our democracy must not be at the cost of conserving our liberty, that ideal of protecting Australian citizens against the tyranny of overreaching political or bureaucratic rulers.
There must be limits to the power of governments over its citizens. I understand that the goal of this review is to ensure that liberty is preserved, and where necessary, returned to the Australian people.
It’s sometimes said that two lions and a goat voting on what to have for dinner is an example of democracy. Indeed, democracy itself can be the tyrannical oppression of the minority by the majority, and the kind of authoritarian denial of religious liberty as sought by some in this important public debate is the tyranny that must be soberly identified and rejected.
My ideological opposites insist that they are merely seeking to shield protected classes of people from discrimination, an imagined harm. Having to buy a cake from a different shop is not a real harm. It is an inconvenience. Even if the conscientious objection of the baker was not well motivated, but entirely insulting, there is still no real harm to the person.
Compelled behaviour, and compelled speech, on the other hand is a very real denial of civil liberty.
This is the vital question this review must determine. That even if the majority deem certain views or religious convictions repugnant, is the power of the government necessarily limited to protecting against real injury, or is it the government’s role to protect citizens against bruised feelings from possibly occurring, regardless of the demonstrable harm to civil liberties such as freedom of religion, association, political expression, commerce and speech?
The question many Australians are now asking themselves is how a liberal government can abide the growing disparity in power between individuals and their government.
I agree there is an authority higher than the Australian government. Our constitution rightly acknowledges our humble reliance on the blessings of Almighty God. It is God-given freedom, natural rights, which the Government is primarily charged with protecting.
How then can any objective review find any other recommendation than that legislation be framed and passed as soon as expedient to specifically protect citizens from punishment or processes intended to punish them for unapproved opinions, those serious convictions resulting from their own enquiries?
Our founding fathers drew much inspiration from the great American experiment, and the man who coined the phrase, “separation of Church and State”, Thomas Jefferson, also wrote that “We have solved by fair experiment, the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government, and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving everyone to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason, and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.” (Letter to the Baptist Association at Chesterfield Virginia, 21 November, 1808)
Section 116 of our constitution reflects the popular sentiment of not only its framers, but the Australian population: that there must be a space in our liberal democracy reserved and protected for the complete freedom of religion, while keeping the government entirely uninterested in how religion is believed, expressed, or practiced, publicly or privately.
Of course, this is limited by conduciveness to a civil society, but that wise limit is not a licence to reinterpret every disagreement between religious convictions and other philosophies or world views as a “harm to a civil society”.
Communist authoritarianism and complete deprivation of social liberty in China are maintained under the thin veneer of being “in the interests of a harmonious society.”
In the pursuit of just such a harmonious if authoritarian society, Archbishop Julian Porteous was punished by the process of having to answer a frivolous complaint against his relatively pedestrian teaching of what marriage is and always has been according to Church tradition. Bernard Gaynor has been repeatedly forced to defend himself and expression of his Christian beliefs against serial, vexatious, extra-jurisdictional complaints by someone who can only be described as a lobbyist employing tyrannical tribunals as his personal political police. Madeleine Woods was fired and her employer boasted publicly of her intolerance for her religious convictions.
This is the muting legal environment Australian Christians find themselves in, and a robust remedy must be found.
It would hearten me greatly to know that each of the panel had at least read the classic essay, “On Liberty,” by John Stuart Mill. Allow me to quote just one passage of utmost relevance to this panel’s review.
“The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him, must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”
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So the central question is, in my mind, does debate, criticism, insults, offense, or even withholding of professional service in accordance with traditional Christian convictions – upon which this nation was founded – constitute “harm” or “evil” done to others?
I submit that to conclude so is patently absurd and not in the least bit consistent with the constitution or social liberty.
I offer some bullet point statements for consideration.
- Freedom of religion cannot be limited to a certain day of the week, a certain type of building, or a certain profession. It must be extended to every person, every day, every where, or it is not freedom of religion at all.
- Freedom to raise our children according to our own values must be guaranteed free of interference from the government, including the right to withdraw children from classes of legitimate concern, that is, clearly contradicting religious conviction.
- It is ridiculous to compel a Muslim butcher to sell bacon to a Christian. It is equally ridiculous and obnoxious to compel anyone to facilitate the celebration or solemnisation of behaviour he finds in conflict with his conscience.
- Just as the Russian Club must be allowed to refuse membership to Nigerians without being found to have unlawfully discriminated, all organisations and businesses must be allowed to discriminate against even protected attributes not consistent with their beliefs or ethos.
- There must be no consequential discrimination, for example in publicly available funding, by the government against such organisations that seek to exclude others on the basis of incompatible identities or behaviours.
- Publication of unpopular or untasteful or even anti-social opinions must be explicitly protected. This could be as innocuous as a preacher’s sermon or a lobbyist’s radical manifesto. Such freedom is essential to a population capable of critical thinking.
- Parents must be free to send their children to schools which share their values, and these schools must be free to teach their values, specifically including but not limited to traditional Biblical teaching on every social issue, such as marriage.
- Speech and behaviour must never be compelled which may violate someone’s convictions or conscience.
- Freedom of religion and political expression must be specifically legislated as an absolute defence against anti-discrimination tribunals and/or human rights commissions prosecuting complaints about speech.
“Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.” – John Stuart Mill
Legislation must be passed to specifically protect citizens from punishment or processes intended to punish them for having, expressing, or acting consistently with, their religious convictions.
May Almighty God grant you Divine wisdom and justice in your deliberations and recommendations. May the Government have the courage and conviction to do what is right, and defend our liberty against its enemies.
I ask that this submission be considered by the Panel and I give consent for this submission to be published by the Panel among its default, public list of submissions received.
Please sign my submission if you agree, and please also take the opportunity to share your own opinion calling for these freedoms to be restored with the Ruddock Review. It doesn’t have to be expert or long, and it’s really easy to submit online.
It is vital that we take this opportunity to address some of the consequences of undefining marriage.
Click here to visit the ACL website which has many great points you can use in your submission.
Click here to get more information about the review, and click here to lodge your submission.