Meeting the experts

Posted in News

On Tuesday 27 February, local Christian leaders met with members of the expert panel conducting the Religious Freedom Review. This meeting was called to continue discussions that took place at a round table gathering earlier in the year.

In January 2018, several Christian leaders in South Australia gathered to explore current protections for religious freedoms in Australia. The impetus for this discussion was the formation of an expert panel called upon by the Prime Minister to examine whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to religious freedom.

The Religious Freedom Review invited submissions from the public, and the panel received over 16,000 submissions before the deadline date of Wednesday 14 February.

While submissions have now closed, members of the expert panel have begun conducting consultations with different groups across Australia.

The leaders who gathered for the January discussion were invited by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to a meeting on Tuesday 27 February, as part of the panel’s face-to-face consultations in Adelaide.

Two members of the expert panel, the Hon Philip Ruddock and Father Frank Brennan, were present at the meeting. The local Christian leaders in attendance were Rev Sue Ellis (Moderator, Uniting Church SA), Rev Sandy Boyce (Pilgrim Uniting Church), Rev Dr Greg Elsdon (Pilgrim Uniting Church), Prof Rick Sarre (Adjunct Law Lecturer, UniSA) and Geraldine Hawkes (South Australian Council of Churches). These leaders represented a wider group of people who had met for the January gathering or had been part of discussions around this issue.

“The panel were keen to pursue the issues around religious freedom expressed in church based schools and the complexities of diverse views on marriage held within churches and the state,” explains Rev Sue Ellis.

The Christian representatives discussed the religious freedoms already enshrined in Australian law, as well as past issues around persecution and religious freedoms. Strong advocacy was made for the spirituality and religious freedoms of First Peoples in Australia.

“We were encouraged to hear that the panel has already met with people from a wide range of faiths and religions, and, as they head to Northern Territory, will be listening to Indigenous peoples,” Geraldine Hawkes says.

While the discussion was frank and wide-ranging, the Christian leaders noted the lack of time given to explore these issues in a comprehensive manner.

The panel will report their findings to the Prime Minister by 31 March, 2018. Over 16,000 submissions were made to the panel before the deadline date of Wednesday 14 February.

For more information about the religious freedom review, please visit pmc.gov.au/domestic-policy/religious-freedom-review

A resource was prepared as a result of the January round table discussion between Christian leaders. It is available online here.

Photo (from left to right): Prof Rick Sarre, Rev Sandy Boyce, Rev Sue Ellis, Rev Dr Greg Elson, Geraldine Hawkes, the Hon Phillip Ruddock and Father Frank Brennan.


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