Church liability for clergy child abuse

I am presenting a paper at a Melbourne Law School seminar on “Tort Liability of Churches for Clergy Child Abuse after the Royal Commission: Implications of Developments in the Law of Vicarious Liability and Non-Delegable Duty”, which is now available for those who are interested. The (fairly technical legal) paper reviews common law liability of churches, touches on some of the statutory changes in NSW and Victoria following the Royal Commission, and suggests that the High Court of Australia should refine the law of “non-delegable duty” to allow it to be used in cases involving intentional torts.

Religious Freedom at Australian Universities

I presented a paper today (linked here) to a seminar at the University where I work, on the topic of “Religious Freedom at Australian Universities”. It explores some of the challenges facing staff and students in this area, and explores some of the ways that religious freedom is currently protected (and where there are gaps in that protection.) I use examples from the policies framed in my local context, but similar policies and legislation would be relevant at most Australian Universities. Others involved in this area may find the paper helpful in outlining issues and options.

Religious Freedom and land-clearing

A religious group has claimed that “religious freedom rights” allow it to ignore Australian laws governing land-clearing and other provisions regulating land development. The claim is clearly wrong. It is important to spell out why, so this false claim does not affect other, justifiable, arguments that can be made about appropriate protection of religious freedom.

Continue reading

Religious Freedom Implications of Same Sex Marriage in Australia

I presented a paper at a conference on “Freedom of Religion or Belief: Creating the Constitutional Space for Other Fundamental Freedoms” on Thursday  15 Feb. The paper, “Protection of Religious Freedom under Australia’s Amended Marriage Law: Constitutional and Other Issues” is linked here for those who are interested: Freedom of Religion or Belief paper Foster .

I argue that, while some religious freedom rights are protected under the amended marriage law, there are some serious gaps in protection for some involved deeply in the celebration of same sex weddings, and also a failure to deal with a range of other issues, such as the ability of faith-based schools to operate in accordance with their fundamental commitments in both engagement of staff and teaching pupils, and whether people who conscientiously believe that same sex relationships are not best for human flourishing will be penalised in the workplace or elsewhere. I note that at least one State in the US has enacted legislation to deal with these issues, which has survived one challenge in the US Supreme Court, and I recommend that Australia seriously consider also legislating in this way.

Law and Religion summer elective cancelled

I previously announced that I was offering a summer course at Newcastle Law School, NSW, on “Law and Religion”. Sadly, the course has had to be cancelled for this summer. The official announcement is as follows:

Unfortunately the course Law and Religion has been postponed to 2019. If you are interested in undertaking this course in the future please contact Associate Professor Neil Foster.

I anticipate it being available again in 2019. In the meantime, for those (law students or others) who would like some recommendations on helpful reading in the area, see this List of highly recommended readings which I have prepared.

Freedom to provide religious instruction in Australian schools

I am presenting a paper on this topic at the University of Notre Dame (Sydney) Law School’s Second Annual Religious Freedom Conference, “Freedom of Belief, Freedom of Action”. The paper is linked here: Freedom to Provide Religious Instruction paper , for those who would like to read it. It surveys recent challenges to the provision of special religious education in public schools, from a religious freedom perspective.