Scott Morrison really has his work well and truly cut if he intends to protect our religious freedom without antagonising the atheists in the ALP, the Greens and the homosexual community, particularly now that his government is in a minority thanks to Malcolm Turnbull’s petulance. The report which was prepared by a panel of experts and chaired by the ex-attorney-general, Phillip Ruddock was handed to the government when Turnbull was still prime minister and he didn’t know what to do with it.
Anyway, it has again surfaced and PM Morrison is ruminating on how to protect freedom of religion. Whatever he and his lawyers agree on, you can bet your cotton socks that it will not read anything as direct and unequivocal as the First Amendment in the United States Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
What you should note in the First, is that freedom of religion is coupled with freedom of speech and freedom to assemble for without those, but essentially without freedom of speech, there can be no freedom to practice religion. Speech, logos, rational speech, is unique to human beings, an unalienable natural right, the quality that makes both political and religious life possible. Freedom of speech makes democracy possible.
Given the current Commonwealth government’s tenuous electoral existence and that it only sought legal advice about religious freedom the most likely result will be a mealy-mouth declaration of an equivocating right to practice religion suitably hedged in with restrictions. Being equivocal, the declaration will not protect the practice of religion because freedom of speech regarding religious matters is already qualified by all sorts of human rights law, as the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, discovered.
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to know that a qualified right to practice a religion that prescribes specific human relationships and their sexual acts while demanding adherence to a moral code will leave those who actually want to practice what was preached, exposed in the political sphere to all manner of legal harassment by left-wing atheists and human rights warriors for whom the only concrete right is the clause in a lease that guarantees them an inner-city parking space.
The best and only protection for religious freedom indeed for all freedom is freedom of speech and it should be constitutionally guaranteed in those words. It is our natural right with which we express, as Aristotle said, “the advantageous and harmful, the just and the unjust.” That is the definition of reasonable political speech. There is a natural concern that freedom of speech cannot be supported because it includes hate speech; the non sequitur being that if we abolish free speech we abolish hate speech. All the evidence to date, however, is that in this country where hate speech is proscribed, hate speech and its more pernicious form, anti-semitism still manifest themselves.
In Europe, the EU has tried to be all things to all men with its European Convention on Human Rights. Article 10.1 protects freedom of speech by providing:
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
It is obvious that the word, ‘expression’, is not the same as ‘speech’ whatever European lawyers might say, for there is a thing called ‘artistic expression’ which is irrational when compared with political speech. You might think that ‘expression’ tacitly includes ‘freedom of speech’ – that is until you read Article 10.2:
The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
The qualification is almost three times longer than the right it qualifies and, you will see, it implicitly only qualifies freedom of speech – which suggest that the right to free speech was never intended to be enjoyed.
Unfortunately, an Austrian woman, Mrs S, didn’t understand that. She was convicted in Austria of disparaging religious doctrines for suggesting that the marriage of Mohammed to six-year-old Aisha and the consummation of the marriage when she was nine, might be paedophilia. The Austrian court had concluded that Mrs S’s comments were value judgments. She appealed to the European Court of Human Rights on the ground that the conviction was a breach of her human right to free speech under Article 10.1.
The ECHR judgment confirmed the conviction. The Austrian court had concluded that her comments were not made “in an objective manner contributing to a debate of public interest (eg., on child marriage).” Which suggests that a discussion of child marriage would support an accusation with an objective base, but not a discussion of a paedophile. The Austrian decision confirmed that truth was irrelevant to its conclusion because the truth of her comments was confirmed by most historic sources.
The ECHR said that the Austrian Court:
Comprehensively assessed the wider context of the applicant’s statements and carefully balanced her right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected, and served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace in Austria.
Religious peace was not mentioned in Article 10.2 but was still asserted as the basis of the appeal court’s decision. Ironically, while the ECHR concluded that “the truth of value judgments was not susceptible to proof” it had no such difficulty in accepting hurt religious feelings – feelings are by definition subjective – as being the truth. That, it seems, is the European way of doing things. It certainly explains Brexit. It should not be the Australian way.
Our Constitution, like the US, was written down so that governments could not overstep their limits. The rise of the lunatic left’s power has been at the expense of freedom in this country where perversions are protected as human rights and what is truly natural to human beings, speech is suppressed. Religion is now the last defence against the left’s ascendancy and it is against religion that they have mounted their most sustained attacks.
If you want the freedom to practice your religion, you must demand unabridged freedom of speech protected by the Constitution from the lunatics who think God is dead and your bended-knee faith just an obstruction to their liberal progress.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.