Freedom of Religion and Belief
STATUS: Report released 21 March 2011.
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has conducted an Inquiry called ''Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century".
Submissions were received until the end of March 2009 (extended from 31 January 2009).
UPDATE: 21 March 2011
The 92 page Report on 'Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st century' was released on 21 March 2011.
The research was carried out by the Australian Multicultural Commission- in particular by co-authors Gary Bouma, Des Cahill, Hass Dellal and Athalia Zwartz.
See our comment about the release of the Report - click here.
Some good news...
Thankfully, due to the wide range of views presented during the Consultation, the Report does not recommend any form of legislation - whether a 'Freedom of Religion Act', or more anti-discrimination or anti-vilification laws. This is good news!
However, the report concludes that "There is a pressing need for education about religionsto reduce ignorance and fear while promoting intergroup respect."
The Report recommends that "The Australian Human Rights Commission needs to continue to monitor issues of freedom of religion and belief, including non-belief. The Commission also needs to foster a discussion about the place of religious rights alongside other rights, allowing for the view to be heard that religious rights are absolute, and then to allow that view to be tempered by other views."
Mmmmmmmmm! Not such good news...
Regarding education, the report says that there is support "for education about the religions, spiritualities and worldviews present in and affecting Australia". They recommend that there should be "an organisation or body that monitors and adjudicates and informs and assists in dealing with issues relating to religious practice within the education system."
This could be a problem if such a body starting dictating what should be taught about various religions.
The Homepage for the Report - click here.
The actual Report - 1.8 MB pdf - click here.
Overview of the Consultation
When 'official bodies' are doing an Inquiry about 'religion' we should all take sit up and take note, because this affects every one of us - because in essence this could well be called 'Freedom FROM belief'!
The Inquiry and national consultation is being held by the federal Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) - formerly the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).
AHRC has published a 16 page Discussion Paper and is asking for SUBMISSIONS - letters, comment, etc.
It is VITAL that we ALL respond - submissions closed end of March 2009 .
UPDATE - April 2009:
Bob Carr, former Labor Premier of NSW, has written a very good article OPPOSING religious vilification laws...
Religion laws don't have a prayer in a country with robust common sense
Bob Carr, SMH, April 18, 2009.
"This week we have heard about an increasing international trend to prosecute religious issues in the courts. In Britain cases are being brought under laws such as the Religious Hatred Act, which makes it a crime to "stir up" "religious hatred". British police have even warned that insulting Scientology would be treated as a crime.
Such legislation may soon be heading to a statute book near you. . ." _____________________________________
What is the Inquiry about?
In the document attached below we've included the two short articles we published in our November and December 2008 journals.
Part 1 outlines the background and the overall objective.
Some key points:
- HREOC conducted an Inquiry in 1998 called Article 18: Freedom of religion and belief. It investigated Australia's 'obligations' under the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- The Report proposed the establishment of a 'Religious Freedom Act'. The Howard government opposed the idea.
- The Inquiry is being run in "partnership" with Monash University, RMIT and the Australian Multicultural Foundation (AMF). That means Gary Bouma from Monash (who acted as an expert witness for the Islamic Council in the Catch the Fire vilification case), Des Cahill (RMIT) and Hass Dellal (a Muslim who runs the AMF).
These men wrote the book Religion, Cultural Diversity and Safeguarding Australia
for an Immigration Department project in 2004. It proposed a rotating roster of prayers in federal Parliament, a national interfaith 'sacred space' and a Multifaith Council. A separate book proposed the establishment of local Interfaith Networks...
for our website page, with links and comment on those publications.
Part 2 outlines the main focus of the Inquiry and the 'questions'...
The major objective is to produce a report which will give "recommendations for promoting freedom of religion and belief (including secular belief) in Australia".
The Discussion Paper lists seven areas for consideration - each of these includes a number of questions.
What sort of questions?
To show you what AHRC and the researchers are really focusing on, let me list a few questions:
* How are federal and state and territory governments managing incitement to religious hatred, and the question of control and responsibility?
* Would a legislated national Charter of Rights add to these freedoms of religion and belief?
* Is there religious radicalism and political extremism in Australia? If so, what are the risks to Australia?
* How is diverse sexuality perceived within faith communities?
* Do you consider environmental concernto be an influence shaping spiritualities and value systems?
* Are there religious groups, practices and beliefs that you think are of concern to Australians?
WHAT do these matters have to do with 'religious freedom'?
Update: April 2009: Submissions now CLOSED.
The following is a record of the process...
PLEASE write a submission!
We need to tell the Australian Human Rights Commission our views - otherwise they'll just hear from everyone else!
PLEASE read the following article - Part 1 and Part 2 are each one page.
PLEASE read the 'Freedom of Religion & Belief' documents:
The Discussion paper is online.(pdf 5 MB, Word 180 KB)
The Inquiry website - click here.
The Discussion Paper - click here.
Then WRITE a 'submission'. Submissions are due by end of March 2009.
- SEND your submission by email to: