Legislation to protect religious freedoms in Australia

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That there is no clear legal protection for freedom of religion and the associated freedoms of speech, conscience, parenting and association under Australian law which means that people of faith are being persecuted simply for living out their faith. This is unacceptable and we want this rectified. 

These Petitioners ask that the Senate:

Enable parliament to enact a Religious Freedom Act that will provide the positive rights of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and the freedom for parents to educate their children according to their faith.

We, the people of Australia call on the Federal Parliament to enact legislation that protects our fundamental human rights to freedom of religion, freedom of thought and freedom of speech that are outlined in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

•    We do not want a ‘religious discrimination bill’ that just provides ‘exemptions’ to other laws based on religious belief. When religious freedoms are framed as ‘exemptions’; they are ‘read-down’ against other positive rights, rendering them subordinate to those other rights.

•   Rather, we want legislation that gives us a positive right to religious freedom that will allow us to live our lives according to our religious beliefs in accordance with generally accepted principles of civility and tolerance. 

•   We therefore call on members of both Houses of Parliament and of all political parties to support the enactment of a stand-alone Religious Freedom Act that protects these positive rights. While the wording of the Act is yet to be determined, we want the legislation to cover, in principle the following 5 key areas, the ‘5 Pillars’ of religious freedom.

Freedom of Speech.

•   We want the positive right to speak publicly either verbally, in print or online the teachings of our religion, within the bounds of civility and politeness, even if it means that some may disagree with us. We do not want what happened to Israel Folau to happen to anyone else.

•   We want limitations on free speech via State “offence and insult” vilification laws be overturned or protection be given for religious speech that may be deemed offensive.

Freedom of Conscience.

•   We want the positive right to abstain from being involved in an activity that we object to on religious grounds without the fear of losing our jobs or of other recrimination.

•   We want freedom of thought, conscience and belief, including religion, be upheld for both individuals and groups in all spheres of life e.g. commercial activities health and education (incl. childcare, pre-school & tertiary) and other employment.

Freedom of Association.

•   We want the positive right to gather with like-minded religious people and discuss our beliefs in public, without worrying about being shut down or disrupted.

Freedom from Discrimination.

•   We want the positive right to be able to be publicly open about our religious beliefs, including at work, without being worried about whether others may discriminate against us because of those beliefs.

•   We want corporate bodies (including schools and faith-based charities) be free to hold traditional views on sexuality and gender identity (not just marriage) without risk of losing charitable status or government funding.

•   We want the charitable arms of religious institutions (such as faith-based welfare, benevolent or health institutions) be clearly recognised as religious bodies under anti-discrimination law.

Freedom of Parenting.

•   We want the positive right to educate our children with our values and beliefs. We don’t want our kids taught things that we may object to like ‘gender is fluid’ or ‘safe schools’.

•   We also want the freedom to send them to religious schools which only employ teachers that are of the same faith as us and will teach them according to the teachings of this faith.