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Reclaiming our religious freedom

Religious freedom is under threat across the Western world, even here in Australia, the land of the ‘fair go.’ Barnabas Fund Australia has launched a new campaign to reclaim religious freedom and is appealing to Christians across the nation to get involved.

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Last year’s postal survey on same-sex marriage drew attention to the issue of religious freedom, and the impact of an increasingly intolerant secular humanism in our land. The Expert Panel selected by the Federal Government to inquire into the status of religious freedom in Australia has been tasked with considering the intersection between the enjoyment of freedom of religion and human rights. The Expert Panel has been allowed to consult as widely as necessary for the purposes of the review.

By 14 February, it had received over 16,000 submissions. Now is the time for Christians to make their voice heard on this vital issue.

Freedom of religion undermined in Australia

There are many examples of how freedom of religion is being undermined in Australia. In 2015, a street preacher in the Gold Coast was arrested, for mentioning a list of sins in the Bible. The same happened earlier to Christians on the Sunshine Coast giving out Bible tracts. The prosecutions were dropped, as happened to Pastor Campbell Markham in Hobart.

The freedom to preach and try to convince others of what you believe is a basic aspect of religious liberty – now under threat in Australia.

We have also seen New South Wales law courts ruling on what is or is not a Christian doctrine. In Victoria, there have been apparent attempts to use hate speech laws to muzzle Christians and prevent them from criticising other religions.

Christians at university are finding themselves discriminated against, and one student was suspended because he respectfully and lovingly expressed disagreement with LGBT ideological beliefs.

Even the basic freedom to choose or change your religion or belief is under threat. Former Muslims in Australia have suffered threats of violence, even death threats. Hizb ut-Tahrir has made clear its belief in executing those who leave Islam (which is in line with sharia law) and has not been prosecuted for this or banned.

Our Constitution

The 1900 Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act states: “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.” (Section 116)

This was effective for a century but now seems to be losing its power. State constitutions have no provisions on religious freedom, as the early settlers expected they would be protected by British laws that had developed over many centuries.

Seven basic aspects of Freedom of Religion

  • Freedom of worship
  • Freedom to read Scriptures in public
  • Freedom to interpret the Scriptures without government interference
  • Freedom to choose or change your faith or belief
  • Freedom to preach and try to convince others of the truth of your beliefs
  • Freedom to establish places of worship
  • Freedom from being required to affirm a particular worldview or belief in order to hold a public sector job (except where there is a genuine occupational requirement such as chaplaincy posts), stand for election, work in professions such as teaching and law, or study at university

Please pray, sign and GET INVOLVED in Barnabas Fund’s campaign

Barnabas Fund exists to support persecuted Christians worldwide and to protect religious liberty wherever it is under threat. Its Our Religious Liberty campaign has launched with a petition calling for full, permanent and adequate protections guaranteeing all seven of the key aspects of religious freedom which have developed over five centuries. These freedoms will apply to followers of all religions and none.

  • Sign the petition today.
  • Download a petition form and gather signatures at your church, workplace or amongst your friends and neighbours.
  • Above all, pray.

For more information, download our booklet Turn the Tide: Reclaiming Religious Freedom in Australia.

Free printed copies of the booklet and petition form are also available from Barnabas Fund’s Brisbane office – (07) 3806 1076 or 1300 365799 – or write to [email protected]

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