AUSTRALIAN PRAYER NETWORK NEWSLETTER
HEADS OF CHURCHES CHALLENGE POLITICAL LEADERS ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
The heads of many of Australia’s Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches together with leaders of other Christian organisations and ministries have written an open letter to both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten sounding the alarm on the lack of religious freedoms included in a bill to legalise same sex marriage. The letter, sent last week, was signed by the most senior Church leaders in the country and appealed to both leaders to make good on their undertakings during the postal survey to uphold religious freedoms. The religious leaders warn that the Senate had “voted against amendments that aim to reasonably accommodate these matters” and argue the marriage bill due to be debated in the House of Representatives does not adequately address freedoms of conscience, belief and religion.
South Australian Liberal Senator David Fawcett and his Victorian Senate colleague, James Paterson, unsuccessfully moved five amendments in the Senate last week to better protect faith-based charities, preserve parental rights and shield individuals from being targeted for continuing to uphold traditional marriage. The amendments were defeated on the floor of the Senate. A growing number of government frontbenchers in the lower house have indicated their intention to support some or all of the amendments by Senator Fawcett and Paterson including Treasurer Scott Morrison, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, Angus Taylor. During the postal survey on same sex marriage, Mr Turnbull said he believed in religious freedoms “even more strongly” than he did in same-sex marriage and promised to ensure it was adequately protected in the event of a Yes vote. Many of his own Coalition MPs believe he has betrayed them by not living up to his word, with some deriding the same sex marriage bill proposed by West Australian Senator Dean Smith, and which passed the upper-house on Wednesday,as resembling a Greens/Labor initiative.
Here is a copy of the wording contained in the open letter sent to Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten.
Open Letter Concerning the Need for Adequate Protection of Freedoms in the Context of Same-Sex Marriage
The recent postal survey result has indicated that the will of a majority of Australians is to support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry. Polling has shown, however, that regardless of voting intention, even more Australians support the Parliament’s guaranteeing in law freedoms of conscience, belief and religion when it legislates for same-sex marriage.
We welcomed your respective independent undertakings, given during the postal survey, that such freedoms would be protected in the event of a Yes vote. Much turns, however, on what is enfolded within the content of those freedoms. The Senate has now voted against amendments that aim to reasonably accommodate these matters. We therefore write to voice our concern that the Bill now due for consideration by the House of Representatives does not address adequate consideration of these fundamental freedoms.
While our view is held in relation to a range of matters, the following are worthy of particular note.
1. The right of parents to ensure the education of their children in accordance with their religious and moral convictions.
2. The right of religious institutions to ensure that their facilities are used in accordance with their beliefs is not assured. Examples include the use of reception halls operated by churches, and associated services (such as catering or relationship counselling) and the use of chapels, halls or similar facilities within religious schools.
3. The internationally recognised rights of religious institutions to establish and maintain faith-based charities in accordance with their convictions is not assured.
4. The concern that charities that express a traditional view of marriage will lose their charitable status at law, as has occurred in other common law jurisdictions, is not addressed.
5. The rights of religious institutions to express their beliefs, provided that they do so in a way that respectfully engages with the wider community, is not protected.
6. The Bill before the House only provides transitional rights for existing celebrants, who are not ministers of religion, to act in accordance with their genuinely held religious or conscientious. We believe new celebrants should also be able to apply to be a traditional marriage celebrant into the future.
In particular, it is our view that the amendments to the Bill proposed by Senators Paterson and Fawcett in the Senate on 28 November 2017 provide balanced and reasonable measures that respond to such concerns, and many others, while also acquitting Australia’s international obligations.
A change in the definition of marriage to permit same-sex couples to marry inevitably requires consideration of how that change will interact with existing rights held in the community. That consideration must be undertaken at the time of the change. To delay consideration of how the right of same-sex couples to marry will interact with the religious and conscientious freedoms of individuals and institutions in our community is to accept that it is permissible that those rights could be breached in the interim period until further legislation is progressed, if at all.
In addition, once the definition of marriage alters, the question immediately arises as to whether a charity that holds a traditional view of marriage will retain its charity status at law. In particular we note that the Acting Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commissioner has indicated in his 24 November 2017 letter to Senator Smith that ‘one way to address the concerns that have been raised may be to provide in the amending legislation that nothing in the legislation adversely affects an entity’s charitable status by reason only that the entity holds or expresses a position on marriage.’ The amendments proposed by Senators Fawcett and Paterson address this concern.
The majority decision of the United States Supreme Court in 2015 which recognised a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in that country, also acknowledged the view that ‘marriage is by its nature a gender-differentiated union of man and woman, long has been held, and continues to be held, in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world.’
A change in a social institution that is as fundamental as that of marriage has wide-ranging implications for our community. The amendments of Senators Fawcett and Paterson offer a reasonable means to unify our nation by effecting the will of the majority who voted in favour of same-sex marriage, while also incorporating the legitimate beliefs of those who are concerned for the protection of freedoms in our community.
Source: Coalition for Marriage and Press Reports
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A PARENT UNVEILS REAL AIM OF VICTORIA’S RELATIONSHIP EDUCATION
When humans seek to redefine (and ignore) biological truths, they start sliding down a slippery slope, one that ultimately leads to chaos. Here in Australia, we have our own real life example of this in action: the state of Victoria. Victoria has a dubious record when it comes to sex and relationships education. It is, after all, the birthplace of Safe Schools, a program which is now being incorporated into the state’s curriculum. Safe Schools was introduced under the guise of ‘anti-bullying.’ Another similarly innocuous-sounding program, Building Respectful Relationships, was brought in under the umbrella of addressing gender-based violence. One concerned parent, whom we will identify as “Charlotte” has recounted her child’s experiences of this “relationship education” a cover-up for blatant, radical sex education in the classroom from an early age.
Typically in those long ago days of five years ago, sexuality education began in Year Three. Some schools have in-house programs and others use approved providers like the above-mentioned Family Life Victoria. These days, the lessons start younger, in Preps and Grade One, Charlotte provides an example of one of these lessons, as well as the dismissive response from the teacher: Charlotte said “Last year, in Year Eight, for example, my child explained to me how she’d learned at school a month prior that it was okay to experiment sexually and she’d not get into trouble. There was no discussion of the legal age of consent nor of abstinence; not that she could recall. The message was that you could feel free to try anything you like. It’s all good. Please note that I wasn’t present, nor was this the exact wording from the teacher. This was the interpretation that my daughter took away from the lesson.”
After classroom exercises dealing with the sexual behaviour of minors and the stereotyping of heterosexual fathers as being homophobic, I sent an email to her teacher explaining that I found the material offensive and derogatory towards fathers and I wanted to remove my child from the lesson. The teacher replied that as a heterosexual male he had no objection to the language used. The flippant attitude of the teacher is consistent with how Safe Schools creator, Marxist academic Roz Ward, encouraged school principals and other leaders to respond to concerned parents. A leaked video from a forum for more than 300 people showed Ward providing the following advice: “When people do complain, then school leadership can very calmly and graciously say, “You know what? We’re doing it anyway, tough luck!”
A Safe Schools-inspired forceful position from school leadership, combined with the relentless push by the Victorian government to have these programs in all schools has had a chilling effect on parents, who are becoming increasingly afraid to raise their voices. Charlotte says: “Occasionally there are parents who are as horrified as I am, but they rarely agree out loud straight away. When you delve into the matter with them, when you provide them with a safe space to discuss it, so to speak, then small concerns creep into the open. Not every parent has as thick a hide as I do, and many are intimidated by the weight of authority carried by the government as represented by teachers and principals. She also describes how parents are kept continually in the dark about what is going on in their child’s school.”
Note that information on sexuality education is rarely provided in detail. It is marketed to parents and the general public as a “Necessary Good”, and we are supposed to feel grateful that it’s there to take the burden of uncomfortable conversations with our offspring off our weary shoulders. The problem with this view is that it promotes the abrogation of the parent’s role to the educational provider, and this can lead to disruption and confusion in the family. Sadly, this account is neither unusual nor unique: the testimonies of many other parents reflect the same reality. Children are being taught radical gender ideology under the guise of “anti-bullying” programs, which, as Charlotte recounted, even teachers are uncomfortable with enforcing. Referring to her encounter with the Year 8 teacher who characterised heterosexual fathers as homophobic:
My email was escalated to my daughter’s home room teacher, and another phone conversation ensued. This bore the interesting fruit when the teacher expressed concerns about the Safe Schools and Building Respectful Relationships lessons of her own. She felt that some of the materials were too risque for her Year Nine students and so modified them, and also admitted that she knew of other teachers who did not use the provided exercises at all but substituted their own. What does it say about our own government-approved and supplied classroom materials when even teachers are uncomfortable with them? Parents like Charlotte are speaking up and showing the government that the radical gender ideology in schools has to stop. It has been toppled in NSW and Tasmania, time for the rest of Australia to follow suit.
Source: Marriage Alliance Australia
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FREEDOM LAWS NEEDED
The Anglican Diocese of Sydney, along with a number of other Christian groups, has called for special legislation to enshrine freedom of belief as a “positive right” in Australia, rather than as a negative “exemption” to other legislation. The call came in a submission to the Federal Government inquiry into the “protection and promotion of the human right to freedom of religion or belief worldwide, including in Australia”. “Within the boundaries prescribed by law, we should be seeking to promote the greatest (not the least) possible freedoms of religion or belief’s , said the submission, signed by Bishop Michael Stead, on behalf of the Religious Freedom Reference Group, and Dr Karin Sowada, who chairs the Social Issues Committee.
“It is not prudent for legislation to call on secular courts or tribunals to arbitrate on what is or is not a church doctrine, tenet, belief or teaching,” the submission said. “The law should provide for broad, not narrow, conceptions of ‘religion’ and ‘religious organisation’.” The Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty likewise submitted that, “the various discrimination and equal opportunity laws do not recognise the right to manifest religious belief. Rather, exemptions are granted but, if challenged, are subject to the determination of tribunals and courts. Rarely do the religious rights of individuals succeed before tribunals and courts.” Christian lawyer and expert on religious freedom, Associate Professor Neil Foster from the University of Newcastle, referred in his submission to a ‘patchwork’ protection for freedom of religion.
“It is past time for consideration to be given at the Commonwealth level for protection of religious freedom to be the subject of special legislation,” he wrote. “The Commonwealth has undertaken to provide serious religious freedom protection by acceding to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It would be appropriate that this commitment be translated into law.” The diocesan submission said changes in law relating to abortion, euthanasia and marriage could “create potential conflicts for many people of faith. We submit that there should be a general protection in Federal law that protects the individual’s freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which will prevent a person being compelled in the course of their employment to perform an action contrary to conscience or religious belief.”
More than 175 submissions have been received by the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, which is conducting the inquiry. The subcommittee’s chairman, Kevin Andrews MP, said, “Australians can be justly proud that our country has not experienced the atrocious violations of this human right that have occurred elsewhere. “Nevertheless, important questions touching on the right to freedom of religion or belief, and its relationship with other rights, have arisen in our own country in recent times. How we protect the freedom of religion or belief, promote religious tolerance and prevent violations or abuses of this right, may prove to be of significance to the wider, religiously diverse world.” The diocesan submission agreed, saying our country could lead the way. “Australia has an impressive track record to date in supporting freedom of religion, and by continuing to foster and support the right to freedom of religion and belief we provide leadership and encouragement to other nations to do likewise.”
Source: Anglican News Service
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