Recently the Australian Law Reform Commission has had a consultation on Rights and Freedoms in Australia. Just the sort of thing I should have made a submission to, you might think. And so did I; except that, in the rush of getting ready for semester 1 teaching the Feb 27 deadline made a whooshing sound as it rushed by! So I was immensely pleased to discover that Freedom 4 Faith, an Australian group set up to further religious freedom, had put forward an excellent submission; in fact, far better than the one I might have prepared! I encourage you to read it. The submission clearly sets out the international obligations Australia has to protect religious freedom, the various limits on religious freedom, and how they should be approached. In particular it identifies very clearly the fact that there is a lingering tendency in those from the “mainstream” human rights area to cast religious freedom in a secondary role, even if they do so because they are unaware of their own presuppositions. See, for example, the paragraph in the ALRC discussion paper noted on page 4 of the F4F submission, where protection of religious freedom is simply labelled “discrimination” and a warning is issued about the needs of “vulnerable” people. The F4F paper clearly but politely points out some of these issues and proposes a model which would better balance out the right to religious freedom and the right to be free from discrimination. I hope that the ALRC will give it a great deal of weight in coming up with their final proposals later in the year.
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