Are courts inherently biased against religion? There is skepticism about how courts will deal with cases involving religious interests, especially when values such as equality and discrimination are involved. This short paper looks at three examples where the courts have had to deal with religious interests, including the only case to date where an Australian charter has dealt with religious freedom. Are courts biased against religion_IsaiahOne
Do Victoria’s Abortion Law Amendments demonstrate the failure of Charters to protect religion? The true lesson of the abortion debate is not that Charters fail religious rights. It is that we need Charters more than ever to promote and protect religious rights… Read More
In some church submissions to the National Consultation on Human Rights, Victoria’s Charter was said to show the failings of Charters generally. There are weaknesses in Victoria’s Charter, which could reduce protection of faith. However, they are not addressed by eliminating Charters altogether, which would only exacerbate problems. Read More
During the Consultation Father Frank Brennan responded to the proposition that the proposal for a Human Rights Act (or Charter) was really for the purpose of curtailing religious freedoms. 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.”
A longer paper on the Australian debate about Charters of Rights, covering controversies such as the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, the Victorian Abortion Law reforms and the Equal Opportunity Act can be downloaded here: Whats Not So Wrong About Rights_McLeay
Barristers Brian Walters SC and Alastair Pound prepared advice for the Human Rights Law Research Centre for its submission to the National Human Rights Consultation (Supplementary Submission on Religious Freedoms and a Human Rights Act (June 2009)). The advice reviews controversial issues such as abortion, the transfer of Parliamentary sovereignty to the judiciary, the effect of a Charter of Rights on religious free speech and expression, and more.