A Test of Maturity: The liberal case for action on religious freedom

Robert Forsyth
31 July 2018 | PP8
A Test of Maturity: The liberal case for action on religious freedom

Australia has long enjoyed religious freedom in practice without robust legal protections. Such protections as there are, are found in anti-discrimination law, usually as exemptions. However freedom of religion remains vulnerable to accusations of prejudice, bigotry and discrimination when the views and practices of religious believers conflict with secular norms.

Indeed, one main problem with the current exemptions regime for protecting religious freedom is that, in reality, antidiscrimination laws themselves present a significant challenge to religious freedom. Increasing  reach of anti-discrimination law, changes to their nature and pressure to remove exemptions in particular threaten the viability of religious communities and institutions.

While religious freedom cannot be absolute nor put religious ideas and practices beyond criticism or ridicule, it is an important feature of any liberal democratic society.

Supporting freedom of religion in a liberal democratic society does not require — or amount to — agreeing with religious truth. Even those who think all religions are false should still agree with them having appropriate freedom.

Changes in Australian law and society over the past 20 years or so has meant that more formalised protections for religious freedom are now needed. This is why the proposal for a federal religious freedom act as a new modest approach to defending it in Australia is worth consideration.

Latest Publications

Jumpstart Productivity: New modelling pinpoints better tax cut program
John Humphreys
15 October 2019 | PP24

Treasury modelling of the government’s tax changes make the strange assumption of no behavioural change, leading them to ignore economic efficiency and overestimate the revenue implications. Proper modelling provides crucial further information: The Low-Middle Income Tax Offset (LMITO) does nothing to improve economic efficiency and will cost about 10% more than expected. The long-term structural tax reforms scheduled for 2022…

READ MORE
Reform, Retreat and Relinquishment: Lessons from historic state ownership of businesses in NSW
Percy Allan
24 September 2019 | PP23

In the 1980s and 90s, Australian governments agreed to an ambitious program of micro-economic reforms to lift industrial productivity and living standards that had languished in the 1970s and 1980s. Most economic attention on that era has focused on federal government initiatives such as further reducing import tariffs, floating the Australian dollar, exposing local banks to foreign competitors, deregulating the…

READ MORE
What Do Parents Want? Australian childcare preferences and attitudes
Eugenie Joseph, Fiona Mueller
10 September 2019 | PP22

Many Australian families rely on formal and informal childcare to enable them to take on employment. Government policies have included a strong focus on giving mothers every opportunity to enter the workforce. In 2019-2020, the federal government is expected to allocate more than $8 billion to subsidising formal childcare, with over one million children aged between newborn and 13 in…

READ MORE
Overcoming the Odds 2: Where are the top-performing disadvantaged secondary schools?
Blaise Joseph
23 July 2019 | PP21

Students from disadvantaged social backgrounds perform worse academically on average than more advantaged students. However, some students and schools from lower socio-economic backgrounds are successful. Only 3 Australian secondary schools are both disadvantaged and high-achieving. In contrast, 21 Australian primary schools are both disadvantaged and high-achieving. The particular challenges facing disadvantaged secondary schools can be partly explained by the following:…

READ MORE
Millennials and Super: the case for voluntary superannuation
Simon Cowan
28 May 2019 | PP20

Superannuation is not a good deal for everyone. As a result of house prices increases, it has become much harder to save for a deposit and, as a result, homeownership percentages among younger workers have fallen. Superannuation, particularly future increases in the guarantee rate, is one of the reasons it is harder to save for a deposit. Given the importance…

READ MORE