Christian groups’ sigh of relief over religious freedoms

Australian Conservatives Release

Christian groups, including schools, have declared the ­Coalition’s return to government a win for religious freedoms and parental rights.

The Conservative Party will always defend your freedoms and leader Cory Bernardi earlier this year introduced a Protected Freedoms Act into federal parliament to do just that.

When it becomes law, the Act will protect freedoms of speech, expression, the press, life, personhood, thought, conscience and religion and freedoms from torture and retrospective laws.

The Australian reports, having staged an unprecedented campaign highlighting potential threats to religious freedom, Christian Schools Australia, the Australian Association of Christian Schools and Associated Christian Schools yesterday expressed relief over the result.

The groups had lobbied on concerns over Labor’s plans to strip religious exemptions from the anti-discrimination legislation, saying it would impact their freedom to hire teachers who aligned with a school’s particular ethos and, in some cases, stifle their ability to teach a biblical view of certain topics, such as marriage.

CSA executive officer Mark Spencer said national polling had indicated that two-thirds of Australians supported religious freedoms being maintained and the result confirmed that political parties “cannot trample on religious values and freedoms”.

“We know that parents in key marginal seats across Australia were saying to us how important the protection of values, beliefs, and freedom of religion are to them,” Mr Spencer said.

“There are mums and dads across Australia who want to choose a school that reflects their values.”

AACS executive director Alithea Westernman said for Christian voters, “new deal-breakers” had emerged during the campaign. “The Christian education movement is united in its desire for religious freedom, particularly to employ staff who uphold the values of Christian schools,” she said.

“Christian education schools and their communities are both relieved and grateful to work through religious freedom legislation in a less hostile environment than anticipated.”

The Australian Law Reform Commission is looking into religious exemptions in anti-discrimination legislation, following on from last year’s Ruddock review of religious freedoms.

The Sex Discrimination Act prevents discrimination against people based on their ­sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status, but there are exemptions that enable religious schools to discriminate in their employment decisions, as well as in relation to education and training, if it is in the interests of upholding religious values.

Australian Christian Lobby managing director Martyn Iles said the “dramatic” turn away from Labor over the course of the election campaign was a “win for religious freedom and parents’ rights”.

Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi has told Leon Byner on Adelaide radio station FIVEaa late last year,under the Conservatives’ proposed bill, the government must justify any erosion of our rights if we are to maintain our national sovereignty.

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