The Christian Democratic Party has introduced a bill to the NSW Legislative Council to bolster protections of religious freedom.
Party leader Rev Fred Nile MLC said on 24 May that the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms) Bill 2018 is “one of the most important bills that I have introduced into parliament”.
“Overseas, people of faith continue to be pushed into the margins of society, and this is something I do not want to see happen in NSW.”
The bill seeks to strengthen and build on current legislation to protect faith-based institutions such as schools, charities and other organisations and individuals.
Paul Green MLC told The Catholic Weekly that attempts to shut down the expression of traditional Christian beliefs about marriage by Tasmanian Archbishop Julian Porteous, tennis great Margaret Court, and rugby’s Israel Folau in recent times was part of the impetus for the bill, though it is for the benefit of people of any religious faith, not only Christians.
“We’re just seeing more and more that people’s right to share their faith is being closed down,” he said.
“We’re responding to a great concern that we need to protect our right to be able to have and share our faith, or at least be able to speak on our core values without fear or favour.”
In a media statement Rev Nile and Mr Green and said they also hold concerns for the ongoing ability of schools and faith-based charities and organisations to operate with Government support and funding.
They hope the bill will safeguard the ability of faith-based schools to teach faith-based values without penalty, and also ensure churches do not lose their charitable status.
“In these uncertain times, some of our most fundamental freedoms are coming under attack like never before,” said Mr Green.
Rev Nile said the bill will protect individuals of faith and faith-based organisations from discrimination, and allow them to practice their religion in the public square.
“People should be able to stay true to their convictions,” he said.
“Every human being is entitled to live according to his or her conscience, whether or not that be faith-driven.”
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) welcomed the introduction of the bill.
“Freedom of conscience and belief is among the most fundamental of human rights and it must be defended and protected by our parliaments,” said managing director Martyn Iles.
“At a time when many political leaders and institutions are becoming increasingly emboldened in their hostility towards faith, many ordinary Australians are feeling marginalised in their workplaces and communities.
“Whilst the bill won’t solve Australia’s serious religious freedom problem following the same-sex marriage vote, it is a welcome and significant step in the right direction.”
Mr Green said members of the public will soon be able to view the bill and provide feedback on it and there is also a petition to the NSW Legislative Council available to support the bill.