Thursday, 20 February 2020

Rights and wrongs and Religious Freedom

President Dr Deidre Palmer has voiced the Uniting Church’s concerns about the latest draft of the Religious Freedom Bills on the ABC’s national radio program Nightlife.

“We have concerns that this Bills may establish a hierarchy of rights so that religious expression is privileged over other human rights,” Dr Palmer told Nightlife host Philip Clark.

“The Uniting Church believes in the protection of people’s freedom to express their religious faith. So where this legislation seeks to strengthen and protect that we support it, but we don’t support a bill which may undermine the human rights of other people.”

Dr Palmer said that while Christians were not persecuted in pursuing their faith in Australia, the experience of religious minorities particularly in the Muslim and Jewish communities could be better protected.

She went on to warn against “narratives of harm” in certain interpretations of scripture that had marginalised women, the LGBTIQ community and First Peoples.

“I am deeply concerned that people see these [the proposed protections for religious statements of belief] as self-serving by the churches and legitimating things that would be harmful to others,” continued Dr Palmer.

“We want an accountable theology that takes into account the effect of what we say on vulnerable people.

“In the Uniting Church we would always be asking our ministry agents and practitioners to be thinking about the impact what they preach has on other people. Does it lead to life-giving, flourishing and the common good of all Australians?”

After further re-drafting the Bills are expected to be introduced to the Federal Parliament in the Autumn session.

Dr Palmer appeared on a panel with human rights academic Prof. Simon Rice, Legal Director of Equality Australia Ghassan Kassissieh and Sydney Anglican Bishop Michael Stead.

A podcast of the conversation is available on the Nightlife program page on the ABC website.