Will Australian law protect diversityof religious beliefs and ethical understandings? Will our secular liberal democracy give space for religious and ethical pluralism? Increasingly it is around these questions that people of faith are feeling under pressure. The response to Israel Folau’s comments on Hell illustrate how this has become a problem in the corporate and employment context.
But the greater concern than pressures from corporates is when the state looks to regulate religious practices and speech of those who fall outside the cultural mainstream. Regulation like this is built on an authoritarian understanding of law and an illiberal vision of politics.
Will the public square be open to competing beliefs or excised of those that do not conform to a secular orthodoxy?
Churches that take a conservative position on life and death issues, or on marriage and sexuality will come under increasing pressure to be publicly silent and to privatise their beliefs. At the same time increasing religious illiteracy means much must be done to show that religion can be a vital agent for good in civil society. We often find ourselves putting a position that those in a secular progressive bubble find incomprehensible.
There is a crucial need to not just seek to see our own interests protected but to work alongside and for people with very different beliefs for the promotion of freedom for all.
Churches, faith based institutions and schools will need to show how the good they do is not despite their faith but because of it.
The challenges are considerable. But your support is making a difference. One bishop recently said to me how Freedom for Faith is ‘punching above our weight’. We’ve been able to make a strong submission to the Ruddock Inquiry and been well heard by the Expert Panel as well as politicians and staffers on both sides of politics. The submission drew incredibly broad support from churches and other faiths.
We’re also working on the review of a NSW bill on religious freedom.We’re appearing before the Joint Parliamentary Committee into Freedom of Belief. And running the Freedom18 conference at NSW Parliament.
Watch this space for a briefing on the Federal Cabinet’s response to the recommendations of the Ruddock Inquiry. If you are interested in having a briefing in your city or for your network do get in touch.
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