Religious Freedom expert Rabbi Saperstein to talk at ACU North Sydney

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Rabbi Saperstein, at left, was President Obama’s Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom from 2015-2017.

The former US ambassador-at-large for religious freedom appointed by President Barack Obama will debate ACU Vice Chancellor Greg Craven in Sydney in March on religious freedom.
Rabbi David Saperstein, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and former US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom from 2015-2017 will debate Prof Craven on 16 March.

He will also be part of a panel discussion on the topic which has shot to the centre of public debate in Australia over the last two years. The debate and panel discussion are part of ACU’s ongoing ‘Rules of Engagement’ series and will be held at the ACU North Sydney Campus.

People should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs

“There is a fundamental principle of people being able to live out their lives in accordance with their religious beliefs,” Rabbi Saperstein told The Catholic Weekly in a phone interview. “People should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs.”

ACU Vice-Chancellor Greg Craven will be converse with Rabbi Saperstein at the ‘Rules of Engagement Series: Where do we draw the limits?’ on 16 March at ACU North Sydney campus PHOTO: ACU

However he also emphasised the importance of religious communities not seeking to enforce their beliefs on other communities with differing beliefs. “People of differing practices however should not be compelled to give sanction or stamp of approval to practices of others.”

For Rabbi Saperstein, the conflict of these two moral principles are the crux of the current debate on religious freedom. “There are two valid moral principles that are in tension with each other,” he said. “Whenever two valid moral principles are in tension you have to find some balancing principle that hopefully will embody as much as possible both of those; that’s what we’re grappling with now. That’s what this [Australian] Bill is intending to address and it shows just how difficult it is to balance this.”

Religious freedom goes to a core aspect of human life

However he highlighted the importance of good religious freedom laws for human flourishing.
“Religious freedom goes to a core aspect of human life. People should freely be able to engage in rituals practices and beliefs that peace fully express those core beliefs of human existence,” he said.

Religious plurality and mutual respect – the hallmarks of Australian society. The Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed lights a candle for the victims of the 2019 terror attack in Christchurch. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“The vast majority of countries across the globe have provision in their constitutions that protect religious freedom. I will be learning a lot of how the Catholic Community in Australia feels about this balancing act and how it affirms these different principles and weighs them out and it should lead to some interesting stuff,” said Rabbi Saperstein.

I will be learning a lot of how the Catholic Community in Australia feels

The debate and panel discussion entitled ‘Religious Freedom: Where do we draw the limits?’ will be held in the Peter Cosgrove Centre at Tenison Woods House, commencing at 5.30pm.
Other participants will include Dr Michael Casey, the Director of the PM Glynn Institute and ACU Deputy Vice-Chancellor Hayden Ramsay.

Rules of Engagement Series: “Religious Freedom: Where do we draw the limits?” A conversation with Professor Greg Craven AO GCSG and Rabbi the Hon. David Saperstein North Sydney Campus, Australian Catholic University
Date: 16 March 2020
Time: 5.30pm to 7.30pm
Venue: The Peter Cosgrove Centre Level 18, Tenison Woods House, North Sydney NSW 2060
RSVP not required