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Trinity Western University, an evangelical tertiary institution in British Columbia, has lost two cases it had brought protesting the decision of two Canadian Provincial Law Societies to not authorise graduates of their proposed Law School as able to practice in the Provinces. The reason for the denial of accreditation was that TWU requires students and staff to agree to a Community Covenant Agreement, which undertakes (among other things) that they will not engage while studying or working at TWU in “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman”.

Published in Religious Freedom

On the 7th June, in the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, (and now in South Australia, starting on October 1st), it has been enshrined in law through the introduction of the Ombudsman Amendment Bill 2018 giving the State[s] power to compel ‘minister of religion, religious leader, officers of a religious body, an individual primarily in charge, or any person who provides services for the religious body’ to report ‘Reportable Conduct’ heard in a confession.

Published in Religious Freedom

Yesterday I wrote about the victory of Colorado cake-maker Jack Phillips. While I still stand with that piece, the only thing I regret was the title I ran with – in haste. I had to dash out, so I quickly changed a more innocuous headline to a more eye-catching one. [Read this story here on Bill's website.] However, anyone reading the piece instead of just going by the title would have seen that this win was hardly an end-all and be-all decision by America’s highest court.

Published in Religious Freedom

In Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd v Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 584 U. S. ____ (2018) (June 4, 2018), the US Supreme Court by 7-2 overturned previous decisions against a Christian cake maker, Jack Phillips, who had declined to make a wedding cake for a same sex wedding. While the basis of the decision of the majority is fairly narrow, the outcome is clearly correct, and even in the narrow reasons offered by Justice Kennedy, there are a number of important affirmations which support religious freedom.

Published in Religious Freedom
Thursday, 24 May 2018 21:41

Face-Coverings and Testimony in Court

Should a Muslim woman who wears a face covering for religious reasons, be entitled to give evidence in court with her face covered? This important issue, which has been discussed in other common law jurisdictions, has now been considered in the NSW Court of Appeal, in Elzahed v State of New South Wales [2018] NSWCA 103 (18 May 2018). The Court concluded that no error had been shown in a ruling by a trial judge, that Ms Elzahad was not entitled to keep her face covered while testifying.

Published in Islam

The recent decision of the England and Wales Court of Appeal in Pemberton v Inwood [2018] EWCA Civ 564 (22 March 2018) upholds what was in effect disciplinary action taken against a Church of England clergyman, the Reverend Canon Jeremy Pemberton, on account of his entering into a same-sex marriage. The decision is a sensible one which upholds the religious freedom of the Anglican church to operate in accordance with its fundamental religious beliefs.

Published in Religious Freedom

A student Christian group at the University of Iowa has been reinstated as a registered student organisation by a US Federal District Court Judge, after previously having its status revoked by University authorities. The student group, Business Leaders in Christ (“BLinC”), had been penalised because it would not agree to appoint to its leadership a same-sex attracted student, who said that they would not undertake to comply with the group’s commitment to Biblical sexual values. The University claimed that this was a breach of its Policy on Human Rights, forbidding discrimination on the basis of, among other things, sexual orientation. BLinC claimed, however, that the issue was not the student’s orientation, but their express refusal to modify their behaviour to accord with Biblical norms.

Published in Religious Freedom

Australia is in the middle of a debate as to the extent to which religious freedom rights should be accommodated in legislation introducing “same sex marriage” (SSM). Those who object to this idea tell us that:

Christian conservatives – following the lead of their counterparts in the United States – seek to use freedom of religion to justify discrimination against members of the LGBTQI community. This agenda is now being pursued under the guise of the debate for a marriage equality bill. (“After the yes vote, let’s not remove one inequality and replace it with another” The Guardian online, 22 Nov 2017)
Published in Religious Freedom

I recently attended a colloquium run by the Presbyterian Church, Religion in the Public Square. Speakers included the illustrious Augusto Zimmerman, journalist Angela Shanahan, and other cultural commentators. The talks covered the current litany of restrictions being placed on Christians in the public arena. It was sobering to hear spectrum of persecutions being waged against us both in Australia and overseas - remember this was before the results of the postal vote on marriage were known. If it was bad before, then it prosises to be much worse from now on.

Published in Religious Freedom

One of the major differences between conservatives and progressives is that we demand protections for all citizens, whereas in general, progressives demand rights for their adherents exclusively. This difference has been particularly noticeable during the campaign for marriage equality, although it shows up across the board. Progressives have taken to openly criticising us for our desire to preserve our freedoms. Gay rights activist, Rodney Croome, goes so far as to say that for conservatives - whom Croome refers to as the radical right -  the fear of losing freedoms is actually an attempt to gain power:

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