October 7th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Green energy push has left us blowin' in the wind

EDITORIAL Lessons for Australia in NZ election results

CANBERRA OBSERVED Assurances on religious freedom needed now

ENERGY Peak oil turns out to be another moral panic

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Timor Leste, Australia reach new border treaty

BUSHFIRES Disaster awaits as advice again goes unheeded

GENDER POLITICS Does biological sex matter?

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Intolerance of the 'Yes' campaign for all to see

EUTHANASIA Medical murder: three historical cases

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Gallant Taiwan survives alone in the bitter sea

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Prepare for apologies in a generation's time

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE A reflection on the use and abuse of the thought of the Angelic Doctor

MUSIC Stupendous talent: What to do with all that ego?

CINEMA Trollhunters: Guillermo del Toro's TV fantasy

BOOK REVIEW Debunking the 'harmless' tag


EUTHANASIA Victoria's death bill: questions that need answers

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Assurances on religious freedom needed now

by NW Contributor

News Weekly, October 7, 2017

The intervention of former prime minister John Howard into the same-sex “marriage” debate has been one of the most decisive moments in the campaign to date, prompting immediate responses from both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten, who sought to reassure Australians that they would indeed support religious freedom if the vote was “Yes”.

The Prime Minister proffered that, for him, religious freedom was even more important to him than same-sex marriage, while Mr Shorten said he was raised as a person of faith and would move to protect religious freedoms too.

But Mr Howard was unmoved.

“We have got to go beyond simply saying that priests and rabbis and imams and ministers can’t be compelled to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony,” he said. “That’s hardly an enormous concession.”

Mr Howard has demanded of the Government that it release details of the bill that would come once the vote is announced.

“I don’t expect to have every last detail of the bill but I do expect – and a lot of people expect – to know how the Government proposes to address the protection of parental rights and religious freedoms and freedom of speech.”

At a minimum, Mr Howard wants religious organisations to get the same protections they now enjoy under state and federal sex discrimination acts – to employ and teach according to their doctrines.

The problem for Mr Turnbull is that he cannot afford to have these issues clarified this side of the postal vote. He wants to see how Australians vote. If they vote “No”, essentially this will be the end of the matter for the Coalition this side of the election.

If they vote “Yes”, then he will make sure the Parliament votes on a Private Members Bill, possibly before Christmas.

However, supporters of traditional marriage do not want to give the Parliament a blank cheque.

Mr Howard was accused by opponents of “muddying the waters” and engaging in a dishonest strategy by turning the marriage debate into a wider question of religious freedom and free speech.

In fact, Mr Howard says “asking questions” is perfectly reasonable in such a society-changing vote.

“Most importantly I do worry about parental rights,” he said. “People worry about what their children are taught in the classroom in relation to gender theory.

“There’s been a lot of debate about the Safe Schools program, which has concerned an enormous number of parents. Some state governments are all in favour of that; others aren’t. Now these are issues that can’t be ignored.”

Currently, the Parliament is likely to debate a bill put forward by West Australian Liberal Senator Dean Smith, one that has been given tentative support from the Labor Party.

But this goes no way far enough for conservatives in the Liberal and National parties.

The extraordinary bullying attitude of sections of the “Yes” campaign has been proof for these MPs that tolerance is a one-way street, that once the bill is passed there will be no tolerance for people of faith who still are unable in conscience to accept marriage between two people of the same sex.

They fear that anyone who writes, preaches or teaches against homosexual unions will be subject to attacks, to discrimination and ultimately to persecution.

There are no safeguards in the Dean Smith bill beyond the minimal ability for priests, ministers of religion or rabbis to decline to marry same-sex couples.

John Anderson, Howard’s loyal deputy, summed it up nicely.

“Freedom of religion is really just a manifestation of the freedom of speech: the freedom for anyone to discuss the most important life issues, our existence, ethics, values, how we might determine the difference between good and bad, and the ability of anyone, religious or not, to freely exchange ideas or differences of opinion on life issues within the public square.

 “Any discussion about religious freedom requires first a recognition that it is far, far broader than the solemnisation of weddings or the baking of wedding cakes.

“It is first and foremost about speech and expression: the ability to live out our beliefs and convictions through word or action.”

The odds are that Parliament will not extend freedoms much beyond those put forward under the Dean Smith bill because Labor, the Greens and the supporters of same-sex marriage in the Liberal Party will have the numbers.

That’s why John Howard is pushing to have these assurances now – before it is too late.

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm