How important are religious liberty and freedom of conscience is in modern statecraft and nation-building? Do they foster social cohesion and mutual respect, or are they sources of division and vilification in diverse societies? Long seen as bedrock foundations of the democratic-liberal state and the common good, freedom of conscience and religion are increasingly under threat and treated with suspicion in contemporary Australia.
In reflecting on how we resolve competing claims of conscience and law, the 2015 Acton Lecture given by His Grace the Most Reverend A. Fisher, Archbishop of Sydney, defends the continuing importance of conscience and religious liberty in democracy today.
In Laudato Si, Pope Francis says: “True statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good. Political powers do not find it easy to assume this duty in the work of nation-building.” [Para.178]