During the National Consultation on Human Rights in 2008-09, Father Frank Brennan responded to the idea that a federal Human Rights Act (or Charter) was really intended to restrict religious freedom. In a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald (July 31, 2009) Father Brennan stated (in part),
“As a Catholic priest who abhors trendy laws aimed at curtailing religious conscience or peaceful religious practice, I beg to differ. After many public consultations and having received about 40,000 submissions, may I suggest a cause for the misunderstanding that has arisen in Victoria? Three issues recur.
First, the over-broad religious vilification law. Passed before the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities was enacted, it would be unlikely to pass muster under that charter.
Second, the compulsory referral clause in last year’s abortion law, which would never be judged compatible with the charter had the politicians bothered to seek and table a statement of compatibility, as the charter requires.
Third, the 30-year review of exemptions (including those for religious schools) from discrimination laws – a timely review whether or not there was a charter.
The Victorian charter has not caused any of these problems, uncertainties or disputes for religious Victorians. Its application might even help to protect the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, which is included in the charter.”