Listen: Frank Brennan in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty
Eminent lawyer and Jesuit Priest Frank Brennan says it is time to look again at the idea of federal legislation to protect religious freedom in Australia. Freedom of religion is not currently protected under Australian federal law and is treated differently by the states and territories.
In 2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appointed Fr Brennan to head a National Human Rights Consultation Committee. The Committee recommended the Federal Parliament should adopt a Human Rights Act similar to legislation in place in Victoria and the ACT.
The issue has been vexed, partly because of criticism of the the Victorian and ACT models. Christian organisations have argued for example that the legislation has been used to limit faith expression rather than protect it.
Some of those same groups are now pointing to the lack of protection at a federal level and say the legalisation of same sex marriage will create new difficulties for christian charities, churches and parents.
Father Brennan has told Open House that the Human Rights Commission, under new Chair Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher, should be asked to conduct a dispassionate investigation of the many issues raised during the same sex marriage survey and report comprehensively on the shortfalls.