By Clare BruceWednesday 10 Jul 2019
Above: Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. (Picture: Facebook/SenatorCFW)
Christian leaders, lawyers and lobbyists across Australia are urging people of faith to sign a petition calling the government to enact a “Religious Freedom” bill, to protect the rights of Australians to free religious expression.
Helping drive the campaign is Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who is a Liberal and the Senator for NSW, launched it during a speech in Parliament last week (Tuesday July 2).
The petition calls for an act that:
- ensures Australians the right to freedom of speech, thought, conscience and religion and religious expression, both publicly and privately;
- protects Australians from coercion in the area of religion and belief;
- is limited only by laws around public safety, order, health, morals and fundamental human rights and freedoms;
- and enables parents to educate and raise their children according to their beliefs.
The government is currently workshopping possible legislation around the issue of religious protection, and a “Religious Discrimination Act” is one of the possible draft legislations that may be tabled before the parliament, as soon as July 22 – although some commentators believe it will be a much more lengthy wait before a draft is tabled.
However many Christian voices, including lawyers from the Human Rights Law Alliance, and the Freedom for Faith lobby group, believe an act focused solely on cases of religious discrimination would not be adequate to protect Australians’ freedoms.
In her speech to the Federal Parliament, Senator Fierravanti-Wells said she had been a long-time advocate for people of faith and was determined to see Australians’ freedom of speech protected.
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“A religious discrimination act is not sufficient,” she said. “It would be defensive in nature and limited to protecting against acts and practices by others which are discriminatory on the grounds of religion…It is important that Australians of all faiths be free to practise their religion without discrimination. Even those who have no beliefs should be free to express those views.”
She said the sacking of Israel Folau by Rugby Australia for his faith-based statements on social media, was an example of the discrimination that Australians should be protected against.
“The Israel Folau issue has heightened already existing concerns about incursions on religious freedom,” she said. “Ordinary people of faith are now, understandably, asking the question: ‘if I quote the Bible, will it get me into trouble?’ This is now the discussion at the kitchen table for Australians who hold religious beliefs.”
The petition is now in circulation among Christian groups across the country, and the Senator is also urging people of faith to voice their concerns around the issue of religious freedom with their local Federal Member of Parliament.
The Senate requires original signatures, so the petitions must be signed by hand and mailed; they cannot be signed electronically or emailed.
A copy of the petition can be downloaded, printed, signed by any number of people, and mailed back to Senator Fierravanti-Wells’ office at PO Box 886, Wollongong, NSW, 2520.
Petitions should be signed and mailed back to the Senator as soon as possible, and those who are collecting multiple signatures are asked to regularly send petition sheets as soon as they are filled.