A call to prayer for religious freedom

Religious Freedom Weekend is happening on June 11 to 13 this year. Christian legal think tank Freedom for Faith (FFF) is calling Christians to join with churches and faith communities across Australia to pray for the persecuted globally – and for the the protection of religious freedom in Australia.

“Every Australian deserves the space to investigate competing claims of truth and goodness, refining their convictions without fear of coercion or punishment.” says FFF. “There is growing evidence that ordinary religious Australians – students, support workers, counsellors, teachers, medical professionals, public servants – are unjustly suffering the consequences of weak protections and unprecedented intrusions into their lives.”

In a letter to Federal Parliament (see below), FFF’s Professor Patrick Parkinson and Pastor Mark Edwards express their disappointment that no religious freedom bill has been introduced into Parliament and calls for it to become a priority.

Cases of the difficulties faced by ordinary Christians in their workplace can be found at the Human Rights Law Alliance here. They include the case of Dr Jereth Kok who was disciplined by the Medical board for his social media activity, and for an article published by Eternity.

FFF suggests prayers for Religious Freedom Weekend (click through for relevant materials). You might consider using them at church or for your private prayer time.

A prayer adapted from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life and liberty
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome —
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

A prayer from Defence Anglicans

O God, our ruler and our guide,
In whose hands are the destinies of this and every nation,
We give you thanks for the freedoms we enjoy in this land
And for those who laid down their lives to defend them:
We pray that we and all the people of Australia,
Gratefully remembering their courage and their sacrifice,
May have grace to live in a spirit of justice,
Of generosity, and of peace;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A letter to Federal Parliament

Professor Patrick Parkinson, who teaches at University of Queensland’s TC Beirne School of Law, and Pastor Mark Edwards (from Cityhope church, Ipswich) who chairs the FFF reference group, have written a joint letter to the Federal Parliament.

On behalf of people of religious faith all over Australia, and representing many of its leaders, Freedom for Faith calls upon members of Federal Parliament to pass this year a Bill which properly protects freedom of religion in Australia and prohibits discrimination on the basis of religious belief.

We understand the impact of the pandemic, but we now ask that the Parliament make religious freedom a priority.

Australia is a successful multicultural society with people of many different faiths, beliefs and views about moral and ethical issues. As Australians, we need to be able to live with each other in harmony, respecting our differences and accepting that we will not all think the same way.

We expect the federal Government, and politicians in all the political parties, to support freedom of religion, and the associated rights of freedom of speech, association and conscience concerning matters of faith. These internationally recognised rights are fundamental to the Australian way of life. Yet they are not adequately protected in federal law or in the laws of some of the States and Territories.

We are disappointed that after the Ruddock Committee heard from so many of us, pouring considerable time and resources into submissions and attending hearings, that so little of consequence resulted from the Committee’s work.

We are disappointed that two years after an election promise by the Morrison Government to provide at least some protection for religious freedom, no Bill has yet been introduced into Parliament. We understand the impact of the pandemic, but we now ask that the Parliament make it a priority.

We believe that there are some fundamental propositions on which most members of Parliament could readily agree:

  • The right of people and organisations to be protected from discrimination on the basis of their religious belief or activity;
  • The right of faith-based organisations and communities to retain their identity and values through shaping their activities, membership, leadership and staffing according to their beliefs;
  • The right to freedom of speech on matters of religious faith and to engage in religious activities, within the internationally accepted limits on that freedom;
  • The right, without interference from the government of any State or Territory, to decide how we pray, who we pray for and for what we pray.

We invite any member of Parliament who disagrees with any of these propositions to make their position clear to all voters so that they can decide at the ballot box whether we should vote for them.

We request that all political parties now make it clear where they stand on these issues and commit to amending the law to be consistent with their statements.