The right to freedom of religion has equal status with other human rights

Are all rights equal?

The right to freedom of religion has equal status with other human rights.

Here in NSW and Australia we have been seeing an increased pressure to marginalise the Church.

During the debate regarding same sex marriage, a consistent concern was whether religious freedom to stand for the traditional view of marriage would be protected. Questions like, would a Pastor be allowed to decline marrying a same sex couple? Could a Christian school decline the use of their facilities for a wedding or reception of a same sex couple?

The proposed amendments to protect religious freedoms in the Marriage Act were lost when voted on in Federal Parliament, and since the legalising of same sex marriage, religious freedoms have become murky in an ever- increasing secular society.

In NSW, The Rev. Hon. Fred Nile MLC has introduced into Parliament, the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedom) Bill 2018. This seeks “to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of a person’s religious belief or religious activities and to prohibit authorities and officials from subjecting faith-based institutions to detrimental treatment on the ground of faith; and for other purposes.”

It is my concern that if Bills like this don’t pass it will be an even larger step away from the Judeo-Christian society we were founded on, and one that fails to protect the religious freedoms of its citizens. After the changes to the Marriage Act, the Religious Freedom Review was conducted, chaired by the Hon. Phillip Ruddock and a report was published with several recommendations.

Several recommendations supported the need to protect human rights, with an important principle being that the right to freedom of religion has equal status with other human rights.

One important recommendation was regarding Charities Law. In New Zealand, since same-sex marriage was legalised, there have been cases of Church-based charities losing their tax exempt status for advocating for the traditional view of marriage. This recommendation proposes that an amendment should be made to the Charities Act 2013 ensuring that a traditional view of marriage should not disqualify an entity from tax exemption status.

In a society that is moving further away from its Christian foundations, those we elect in coming elections to represent us is becoming vital. I encourage you to think and pray carefully about how you vote in 2019. If we want to see our religious freedoms protected, and the recommendations of the Ruddock report legislated, it needs to be a priority of those we elect. If we want to see our religious schools protected and allowed to teach the traditional view of marriage; if we want our churches to be able to continue their charity work in the community and maintain the right to tax exemption; then these things need to matter to our politicians.

The Christian Democratic Party (CDP), has and will continue to hold Government to account. We will ensure the Government does not neglect our religious freedoms and ensure they do not exchange Christian values for secular values. I encourage you to vote CDP in the NSW Legislative Council on March 23.