News

Open Letter Urging Religious Protections

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
4 Dec 2017

Church leaders from across Australia have written an open letter to both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten regarding the lack of religious freedoms included in the same sex marriage bill.

At least 30 senior church leaders have added their names to the letter, urging both leaders to support amendments to the Dean Smith bill, which was passed without amendment by the Senate last week.

The amendments sought to include the protection of faith-based charities, parental rights and protections for individuals from being targeted for upholding traditional marriage.

With the Senate having passed same-sex marriage legislation last Wednesday by 43 votes to 12, the lower house is being pressured to endorse the bill.

However, Mr Turnbull has flagged his support for amendments to protect religious freedom.

Kevin Andrews MP, who is Chair of the parliamentary Human Rights Sub-Committee which provided its interim report into religious freedom in Australia on Friday, said the amendments were "reasonable" and he expected strong support for them.

If the bill is amended, it will return to the Senate for debate where Labor, the Greens and some crossbenchers are unlikely to accept the amendments.

The signatories include the Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous and the Maronite Bishop of Australia, Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, as well as leaders from other Christian denominations, and the Islamic and Jewish faiths.

In the letter, the religious leaders warn that the Senate had "voted against amendments that aim to reasonably accommodate these matters" and argue the marriage bill, due to be debated in the House of Representatives from 10am today, does not adequately address freedoms of conscience, belief and religion.

South Australian Liberal senator David Fawcett and his Victorian colleague James Paterson unsuccessfully moved five amendments in the Senate to better protect faith-based charities, preserve parental rights and shield individuals from being targeted for continuing to uphold traditional marriage.

The amendments were defeated on the floor of the Senate, with the religious leaders warning the legalisation of same sex marriage will force an immediate question as to "whether a charity that holds a traditional view of marriage will retain its charity status at law".

A full copy of the letter, and the full list of signatories, can be found on the Coalition for Marriage website here