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.
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.
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.
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.
For those studying Law at University who would like to be able to do a Summer Elective on “Law and Religion”, I will be teaching one at Newcastle Law School (NSW, Australia) over the 2017-2018 Summer term. Feel free to pass this on if you know someone who may be interested. I of course expect some Newcastle students will be taking the course. But it would be possible for law students from other Universities to do so as well. This would be suitable for a later year law student who may be able to apply to their own University for “cross-institutional credit” into their own law degree.
At the moment it is planned to run the course in a compressed form from 22 Jan-2 Feb 2018. There are two versions being offered at the same time, one suitable for those doing an undergraduate LLB and one for those doing a graduate-entry JD. See further information at https://www.newcastle.edu.au/course/LAWS5035 and https://www.newcastle.edu.au/course/LAWS6095 .
Two pieces in the Australian online forum “The Conversation” today make misleading statements about the possible impacts of the recognition of same-sex marriage in Australia, and warrant some response. One article suggests that there is no doubt that churches will still be able to decline to solemnise same-sex marriages. The other is a “fact check” on assertions about the mandatory nature of “safe schools” programs following such a change. In my view both pieces are likely to mislead.
In the context of the current postal survey on changing the law of marriage in Australia, press reports in the last few days indicate that a contractor who had been working for an ACT-based children’s entertainment business has lost her position solely due to her indication of support for a “No” vote in the current postal survey on the issue being conducted in Australia. (See here for a detailed report on the incident quoting both sides.)
It seems worth commenting on the legal implications of the decision to terminate the contractor, especially in light of the “Safeguards” legislation that was recently passed by the Federal Parliament, and on which I recently posted.