RLPB 482. Australia: Religious Freedom in the Balance
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 482 | Wed 05 Dec 2018
AUSTRALIA: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE BALANCE
By Elizabeth Kendal
CFF Director of Advocacy
In Australia, religious freedom is facing its most serious threat to date. Throughout the nation’s short history, the idea that religious freedom is a fundamental human right has simply been taken for granted. Consequently, no legislation has ever been enacted to protect religious freedom. As far as legislation goes, religious freedom only exists in negative terms — through exemptions in anti-discrimination law. The religious exemptions became a necessity after the law’s list of protected attributes was expanded to include attributes such as gender identity and sexual orientation. As is increasingly evident, these are matters on which conservative religion and progressive cultures clash. Strip the religious exemptions away and religious freedom is not protected, meaning charges of discrimination can be brought against religious institutions that simply adhere to their values. Unfortunately in Australia, the cultural-Marxist’s ‘Long March through the Institutions’ has been extremely successful. Consequently, ‘equality’ and ‘non-discrimination’ — as distinct from universal human rights (which have their roots in the Judeo-Christian worldview) — are now regarded as the benchmarks by which rights are established.
Having been riven by an internal culture war (conservatives vs progressives) Australia’s governing Liberal National Party (LNP) has now been reduced to a minority government. Brimming with confidence, the progressive opposition Labor Party has gone on the attack, eager to humiliate the LNP ahead of approaching federal polls (slated for May 2019). Riding the progressive wave that has swept up Australia’s urban elites, a confident opposition has gone on the attack. In its sights is the increasingly contentious issue of religious freedom. Exploiting the community outrage whipped up by false reports that the government wants to grant faith-based schools the right to summarily expel gay children and sack gay teachers, the opposition has proposed legislation to strip religious exemptions from anti-discrimination law.
Labor introduced its Bill into the Senate on 29 November. Attorney-General Christian Porter warned that ‘Labor’s bill represents radical change because it provides no legislative ability for schools to act in accordance with their beliefs and the tenets of their faith. It completely removes the ability of religious educational institutions to maintain their ethos through what they teach and the rules of conduct they impose on students.’ In short, religious institutions involved in education — including Christian schools, theological colleges, churches and Sunday Schools — would lose the right to teach, select staff, and enforce rules in accordance with their values. In the absence of religious freedom protections, they would immediately fall prey to hostile anti-discrimination ‘lawfare’ initiated by LGBTQ activists, before which they would be utterly defenceless.
Regardless of what the progressive Labor-led opposition may or may not be able to pull off during this last sitting week before Christmas, polls indicate that Labor is on track to win the next federal election in a landslide. On 24 November Victorian state voters re-elected ‘the most progressive government in the nation’ in a landslide. This was despite its pre-election promise to double the budget deficit and despite its commitment to strip religious exemptions from anti-discrimination law, which would shred religious liberty in the state. It is highly likely that this scenario will be repeated at the federal level in early 2019. The situation is both serious and fluid. The tide has turned and intolerance is rising. Religious freedom hangs in the balance.
For a detailed report see,
Australia: Will Religious Liberty Slide into Oblivion?
Religious Liberty Monitoring (5 Dec 2018).]
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO
* redeem Australia’s religious freedom debate to awaken, revive, re-energise and embolden the Australian Church; may God breathe life and strength into the Australian Church (Ezekiel 37:10).
* redeem Australia’s religious freedom debate to awaken Australian citizens as to the importance of the fundamental universal human right of religious freedom; may ears long blocked to the message of the Church be opened; may minds captured by lies be liberated, and may many hard hearts be softened.
* magnify and empower Australian voices of liberty — in politics, in media and in civil society; may the Lord — in mercy for Australia’s children — give ‘strength to those turn to back the battle at the gate’ (from Isaiah 28:5,6 ESV)
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
AUSTRALIA’S RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE BALANCE
On 29 November the opposition Australian Labor Party introduced legislation into parliament that proposes religious exemptions be stripped from anti-discrimination law. Because Australia lacks legislation to protect religious freedom as a fundamental and universal human right, Labor’s Bill would mean religious institutions involved in education — including Christian schools, theological colleges, churches and Sunday Schools — would lose the right to teach, select staff and enforce rules in accordance with their values. Religious institutions would immediately fall prey to hostile anti-discrimination ‘lawfare’ initiated by LGBTQ activists, before which they would be utterly defenceless. Regardless of what the Labor-led opposition may or may not be able to achieve now, polls indicate that Labor is on track to comfortably win the next federal election (due May 2019). Religious liberty hangs in the balance. Please pray.
Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.
She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).