How to protect diversity? with Michael Kellahan

How to protect diversity? with Michael Kellahan

In the wash up of the same sex marriage postal plebiscite last year the Federal Government ordered an inquiry into freedom for religion in Australia, to report in late March. 

Christian leaders were frustrated at the time that it appeared that religious freedom issues were being ignored.

But, now there inquiry is up and running, and all sorts of groups have been working over summer on submissions.

There seems to be a window of opportunity given by the terms of reference to highlight the issues of Religious freedom. 

We frequently thank God for the freedom to worship, to teach, in Australia, and we have seen ourselves as privileged compared to other countries where there is real persecution.

But some of those freedoms are now genuinely under threat. This is seen in the growing tendency of the state to interfere in religious organisations, insisting that we act in particular ways.  

There is very little law to give legal protection in these areas. 

At the moment, Religious Freedom is mainly protected in Australia by way of exemptions to  discrimination laws.  And more and more it is being felt that those exemptions are being grudgingly given.  Even things that might have been taken for granted - like the right of the Catholic Church to say it wants a celibate male priesthood.

In regards to the inquiry, given the tight turn around time for submissions and a tight turn around time for the inquiry to report, the quality of the government's panel's work will largely going to depend on the quality of the submissions. 

So a moderate well thought through submission is required.  

Former Sydney pastor Michael Kellahan heads the group, Freedom for Faith, which has done a major submission on behalf of leading protestant denominations and they are looking to see if they can achieve as broader base of support as possible. 

And Michael handed in their submission to the inquiry yesterday. 

In this weeks edition of the Pastor’s Heart, we ask Michael about the details of the Freedom for Faith submission. He says they are asking for: 

  • A positive duty on employers for reasonable rights of employees to practice religion

  • A move away from exemptions and acknowledgement of a general positive right for freedom for faith that matches our international treaties.

  • Commonwealth religious freedom act to overcome state inconsistencies

  • A change to the definition of discrimination

  • A religious freedom commissioner

Michael says there has been a genuine cultural shift that now requires a legal response. But, the government will not act unless they believe there is a genuine problem that needs curing. So lots more shorter individual submissions are needed that spell out the problems.

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