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

Respect and division: How Australians view religion
Monica Wilkie, Robert Forsyth
02 December 2019 | PP27

Religious tolerance is vital for a well-functioning secular democracy. The ability to tolerate even undesirable ideas ensures harmony. In order to determine the attitudes of Australians towards religion, the Centre for Independent Studies commissioned YouGov Galaxy to poll more than 1000 Australians, with the data weighted by age, gender, and region, and also according to the religious affiliation question posed…

READ MORE
What Do Parents Want From Schools?
Glenn Fahey
20 November 2019 | PP26

Educational freedom and proper use of resources are both crucial in producing the best outcomes for school students. This paper provides an insight into parental perspectives of the current state of school choice and resourcing. The research results reveal the areas of importance to parents and how they and their children could be better served by our education system. The…

READ MORE
Toxic Mutation of an Ancient Hatred: Left-Wing Antisemitism
Peter Kurti
13 November 2019 | PP25

Antisemitism is on the rise in many Western countries. On the postmodern left, this ancient hatred is often expressed as anti-Zionism which claims to be opposed to racism and colonialism. Yet because anti-Zionist discourse is an attack on the right of the State of Israel even to exist, it also antisemitic. This is because it denies both the very concept of…

READ MORE
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