A recent UK court decision upheld the decision of University authorities to remove a student, Felix Ngole, from a post-graduate Social Work course, because of views he had expressed in a public social media forum about the Bible’s view on homosexuality. In my opinion the decision is a shocking breach of principles governing both religious freedom and freedom of speech, and should be over-turned as soon as possible. For Australian readers, it is also a salutary reminder that when the law on marriage changes, it becomes harder to protect religious and other freedoms.
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 .
The Northern Territory government has released a discussion paper called Modernisation of the Anti-Discrimination Act (Sept 2017). It invites comments by 3 December 2017. You can almost get the tone of the paper from the title! After all, who in this fast-changing age could oppose anything called “modernisation”? But there are a number of concerning recommendations and comments made from the law and religion perspective, and there are some real doubts whether the proposals properly reflect religious freedom principles.
My colleague Dr Alex Deagon from QUT has graciously provided a guest blog post in which he outlines his comments on two major concerns with the proposals to amend the Act. Those who are interested in the interaction of discrimination law and religious freedom should find them very helpful, and may wish to make their own comments in response to the discussion paper. There are other controversial proposals in the paper which may be the subject of future posts.
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.
An academic colleague suggested the other day that it would be good to post some recommendations for academic commentary on the same-sex marriage issues, for those who are interested in reading that goes a bit more in-depth than a standard blog post or opinion piece.
I thought this was a great idea. I have compiled the following list of reading from recommendations of legal colleagues who, like me, have serious concerns about the proposal to introduce same-sex marriage. In that sense it is not a ‘balanced’ list. Those who want to find enthusiastic academic support for introducing the reform will not find it hard to do so elsewhere. But some of these pieces may not be so widely read, and deserve to be better known. Some are quite recent.