Religious freedom is under threat in Australia. Same-sex marriage became legal in Australia with the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 coming into effect on 9 December 2017. It was notable for its minimal religious protections for individuals who are not members of the clergy or registered religious marriage celebrants. I have written previously about the threats to religious freedom that have occurred elsewhere as a result of redefining marriage.
Prime Minister Turnbull kicked the Religious Freedom can down the road by appointing an ‘expert panel’, led by Philip Ruddock, ‘Special Envoy to the Prime Minister for Human Rights’, to discuss the concerns of those who wish to practise their faith without fear of prosecution for supposed ‘vilification’ or ‘discrimination’. The Expert Panel on Religious Freedom has been accepting submissions from the general public, with the closing date being 14 February. Don’t expect any help from the fact that Frank Brennan S.J. is on the expert panel: he who ran a ‘common good’ argument in favour of same-sex marriage. The terms of reference are these:
The Panel shall examine and report on whether Australian law (Commonwealth, State and Territory) adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion.
In undertaking this Review, the Panel should:
- Consider the intersections between the enjoyment of the freedom of religion and other human rights.
- Have regard to any previous or ongoing reviews or inquiries that it considers relevant.
- Consult as widely as it considers necessary.
Many independent Christian and other concerned organisations have been hard at work, encouraging their members to write to the panel (examples here, here and here), so one would think, would one not, that in an area so fundamental to our faith, the Bishops and Archbishops of Australia would be jumping up an down to encourage and rouse up the faithful to get involved? Wondering why I had not heard any special message about this during the announcements at Mass, I leapt onto the Archdiocesan website and searched for exhortations from the Archbishop for parishioners to participate in this national discussion.
What did I find? … <crickets> …
Merely one piece by Josh Low, not even referencing the Archbishop, but rather Paul Monagle from the Australian Family Association. Not only that, but The Record has not had a single editorial written since 2014. One would ask, where is the editorial leadership, given that one of the main planks of the Archdiocesan Plan 2016-2021 is ‘effective communication’? Hmmm. When you are an Archbishop with a large army of willing helpers at your disposal, does the Holy Spirit not energise you to muster your troops to action? If not, why not? When Cardinal Sarah wrote about The Power of Silence, he didn’t mean this.
At any rate, I have uploaded my submission, and if you haven’t done yours yet, the link is here: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM SUBMISSIONS. Don’t delay.