The federal government broke religious freedom, it needs to fix it

The federal government broke religious freedom, it needs to fix it

Suggestions that religious freedom should be left to the states are wrong-headed.

Freedom of religion is the unfinished work of the 2017 same-sex marriage postal plebiscite.

It is the can that has been kicked down the road ever since Malcolm Turnbull commissioned the Ruddock Review following pleas from former prime minister John Howard and deputy prime minister John Anderson at the height of the debate.

A couple of bills to restore some of the freedoms lost in the mail-in vote were drafted but not settled.

Then Covid hit.

While much of Australia remains in lockdown, it looks like religious freedom could be coming out with new Attorney General Michaelia Cash hoping to present legislation before Christmas.

Last week’s cancelling and uncancelling of the Australian Christian Lobby by the Western Australian government is just one of many examples of pressure on freedom of religion and speech which is coming more and more upon those of us who don’t toe the rainbow political movement’s line.

None of us growing up thought freedom of religion and speech would ever be in question, such was the Australian fair go ethos.

ACL was fortunate in that it is high-profile with more than 200,000 supporters. This is enough to spook even the most left-wing governments. We’ll perhaps not Daniel Andrews but you get my point.

But scores of individuals like me are facing legal action or pressure from woke workplaces.

I’ve never seen Christians so worried about the future of freedom – for themselves and for their children and grandchildren.

None of us envisaged this but it is the price we are paying for failing to participate in our system of participatory democracy.

So it is welcome news that freedom of religion is finally back on the political agenda.  It would seem that the Morrison Government is keen to have it resolved before the next election, due before May 2022.

But one member of the Morrison government, Tim Wilson, at the weekend was reported as saying the Commonwealth should leave freedom of religion to the states.

“Most of the issues with freedom of religion are in state laws, and the state parliaments should fix them,” he told The Weekend Australian’s Janet Albrechtsen.

Now this is a bit rich coming from one of the Liberal government’s foremost champions of redefining marriage.

Wilson, who is now in a same-sex marriage, helped break freedom of speech and religion by campaigning for same-sex marriage which in turn weaponised our flawed state-based anti-discrimination laws.

He even recognises that they are flawed along with some Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws.

“One of the most egregious is section 17 of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act which was modelled on section 18C of the federal Racial Discrimination Act. It would be hypocritical for the federal parliament to try and override Tasmania’s bad law when it won’t fix its own first,” Wilson said.

That may be so but the reality is these flawed laws at state and federal level now criminalise good people as a result of Wilson’s recklessness in championing a change he knew full well would have consequences.

Cash’s solution to putting Humpty back together is to provide Commonwealth overrides of state laws to protect the freedom of those who don’t agree with same-sex marriage.

The only state that is moving in the direction of freedom is NSW where the Berejiklian government is considering adopting Mark Latham’s religious freedom bill as its own.

This would provide some relief.

However, neither the NSW bill not the Cash bill protect people who provide services to weddings such as cake-makers, photographers and venue operators.

These people are currently compelled to violate their conscience to help celebrate something with which they disagree.

This is not about animus to individuals, it is about deeply held belief in what marriage is and is not.

In a free society, no one should be forced to use their creative talents to celebrate something that violates deeply held religious convictions.

In the United States a cake maker and a florist remain embroiled in litigation as activists run them through the courts to make them submit.

That they are being pursued six years on from when judges on the bench of the Supreme Court decreed that marriage be redefined in all US states is evidence of the intolerance of the rainbow political movement.

As the only Christian political party with parliamentary representation, the Christian Democratic Party will continue the fight for religious freedom and freedom of speech.

Your vote for the CDP at the next election will help send politicians a message that a sizeable constituency still values these.

Lyle Shelton is Director of Campaigns and Communications for the Christian Democratic Party. The Reverend Honourable Fred Nile MLC has nominated Lyle to succeed him in the NSW Parliament when he retires in November. To keep in touch with Lyle and the CDP, sign up here.