Professor Patrick Parkinson, one of our founding board members, has written a substantial (109 page!) submission to the Ruddock inquiry into the protection of religious freedom. This submission, which we have titled ‘Protecting Diversity’ makes the case for a better legal framework for religious freedom in Australia. We have met with the Panel and were grateful to see the way they had clearly engaged with our arguments.
Our submission was made on behalf of, or endorsed by, a range of denominations and church groups including the Australian Christian Churches (which includes Hillsong), the Baptists, the Presbyterian Church of Australia, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney, the Barnabas Fund, the Assembly of Confessing Congregations within the Uniting Church, the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia, Free Reformed Churches of Australia, Church Communities Australia, the Sydney Chinese Christian Churches Association, the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches and Crusaders.
In other words, most of the Australian Protestant Christians in church on any given Sunday! We’re also having very close ongoing conversations with the Eastern Churches, Catholic Churches, and other faith groups who’ve been very positive towards our recommendations. This degree of alignment between churches to back a submission is without precedent.
The Panel received over 16.5k submissions and won’t have time to interact with them all before reporting back at the end of March. They therefore will rely on submissions like ours that demonstrate a breadth of support and a depth of expertise.
Religious freedom is precious and should not be taken for granted. It must be said that many of those making submissions are asking for existing freedoms to be taken away. The challenges to it are real and growing. There are concrete steps for legal reform that are reasonable and achievable. The government should resist any political temptation to offer a ‘lowest common denominator’ reform package. They can and should do better than that.