The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said it’s a sad day for religious freedom with the Victorian Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss a Christian youth camp’s appeal to be exempted from an instance of discrimination, necessitated by its religious beliefs. The Victorian Court of Appeal handed down its decision on April 16, upholding the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s ruling that Christian Youth Camps (CYC) had discriminated against an organisation by refusing to allow it to hire the campsite because the purpose of the organisation’s project conflicted with CYC.

ACL’s Victorian Director Dan Flynn said the Equal Opportunity Act (EOA) made provision for religious organisations to be exempt from discrimination if it was necessary for them to express genuine religious beliefs or principles. “This case shows that equal opportunities trump religious freedom which is a concern to the ACL. Christian Youth Camps and it’s employee, Mark Rowe, were fined for refusing a booking when, according to the dissenting judge, Justice Redlich, they were compelled to do so by their religious beliefs concerning marriage, sexuality and sexual orientation,” he said.

In Justice Redlich’s judgement he said it was important religious organisations retained the freedom to act on their religious beliefs in the marketplace. “Justice Redlich’s judgement emphasises that if the religious exemption is restricted by judges this frustrates the very purpose of the exemption which is to protect religious freedom,” Mr Flynn said. In his judgement, Justice Redlich quoted from the book Religious Freedom in the Liberal State. The broad right to ‘practice’ one’s religion or belief would seem to embrace a huge variety of activity if one takes the view — as many religions do — that all life is inspired by or generated by faith and belief.

The book goes on “The most mundane of human behaviours can be ‘spiritualised’ and take on a religious connotation. One is practising one’s religion when one eats, drinks, works, plays and gardens, as much as when one reads scripture, prays or meditates. In Christianity, ‘the righteous will live by faith’, ‘everything that does not come from faith is sin’, and ‘whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God’. On this view there is no activity which is not generated by one’s obedience (or disobedience) to God. Countless schools, hospitals and orphanages have been run by religious organizations as part of their religious mission.

Mr Flynn said that he hoped human rights lawyers in Australia would study the decision of Justice Redlich to better understand the intended scope of section 77 of the Equal Opportunity Act. “Justice Redlich has made a critical contribution to Victorian human rights jurisprudence by articulating the principle that religious belief may give rise to an obligation of obedience to that principle in the commercial sphere,” he said. “CYC was acting in good conscience in not accepting the booking when it realised the proposed event conflicted with its own organisational values and beliefs,” he said.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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Byron Shire Council will be inviting all local government mayors in Australia to join a Mayors for Marriage Equality group and sign a Proclamation of Local Government Support for Marriage Equality which will then be sent to Prime Minister Tony Abbott.  The proclamation plan follows a decision last year by the council to offer a symbolic Byron Shire Certificate of Marriage when requested for same sex marriage ceremonies within the Shire.  Mayor Simon Richardson said the council wanted to show leadership and show Australia Byron Shire supports marriage equality.

“Whilst it may be symbolic, we have an opportunity to lead within Australia and it’s time to take a stance,” he said  “Locally when residents are being discriminated against, we need to speak out and support them. There are times to take a principled stance and this is one of them.” Along with the marriage certificate, Council was also planning a ‘Love Garden’ whereby a tree is planted in a public space to record and celebrate a same sex marriage within Byron Shire.  Following is the draft text for the Marriage Equality Proclamation as proposed by the Byron Shire Council:

We, of Byron Shire Council, proclaim our support for Marriage Equality.

We believe that marriage between two consenting adults deserves to be celebrated, validated, acknowledged and legal.

We believe in absolute Marriage Equality beyond the notion that a civil union is “enough”.

We believe that Marriage Equality is a human rights issue.

We believe that Marriage Equality is a human respect issue.

We believe in celebrating the diversity of our society.

We believe in inclusion.

We believe that it is time for Australia to legalise all marriages equally.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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A bank is standing by its decision to close the account of a protest group which is fighting plans to build a mosque in the Victorian city of Bendigo. The Bendigo Bank informed the Stop the Mosque group that it was closing the group’s account, saying the bank only wants to do business with organisations that share its values. The group was raising funds for its fight against a mosque which is proposed for a site near Bendigo’s airport. The bank’s decision has drawn criticism on social media, while local councillor Elise Chapman has accused the bank of trying to be the ‘moral police’.

“There’s a lot of other people – there’s murderers, paedophiles, criminals – everybody banks, and I’m sure that those people also have bank accounts at the bank,” Ms Chapman said. “I don’t know when the bank becomes the moral police. If the bank was the moral police they’d have not that many customers.” In a statement, the bank said this was a considered decision and the bank has a right to its own opinion. It says Bendigo Bank wants to do business with organisations whose values align with its own. It says the bank values tolerance and inclusiveness, qualities which are an important part of a strong community.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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