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Welcome
Neil Foster

Neil Foster

Law Professor

Neil is an evangelical Christian, an Associate Professor in law, a father and a grandfather. He has qualifications in both law and theology and teaches “Law and Religion” as an elective to later year law students.

He blogs at Law and Religion Australia

Monday, 07 October 2019 05:45

Fired for using the wrong pronoun

Two cases have been highlight overseas recently where a Christian employee has been fired for declining to use the “preferred pronoun” of a person who identifies as a different gender to their biological sex. The cases illustrate that religious freedom, and free speech generally, in the workplace can be under challenge in circumstances involving “gender identity” issues. It is not clear how such cases would be resolved in Australia.

The High Court of Australia today upheld as “reasonable”, and not unconstitutional, the decision of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to dismiss an employee who had made anonymous political comments about migration matters and government policies, contrary to various codes of conduct. The case provides interesting insights into the operation of the implied constitutional freedom of political communication. Many will see similarities with the dismissal of footballer Israel Folau for comments he shared about the Bible’s view of morality, but as we will see, while somewhat factually similar, the cases raise quite different issues.

It is not uncommon to find popular assertions , in relation to the legal treatment of transgender persons, that the law requires that a person who asserts they are of a different gender to their biological sex, be allowed to use bathrooms set aside for their chosen gender, or that they have a “right” to be addressed by the pronoun corresponding to that gender. In this post I want to point out that it seems quite arguable that the law in most of Australia does not have this effect.

An important decision of the England and Wales Court of Appeal has ruled that a social work student, Felix Ngole, should not have been dismissed from his course on the basis of comments he made on social media sharing the Bible’s view on homosexuality.

Sunday, 23 June 2019 20:15

Sperm donor recognised as father

This week the High Court of Australia handed down a fascinating decision on the question as to whether a sperm donor can be recognised as the legal parent of a child born through artificial insemination.

In a previous post I commented on the events surrounding celebrity rugby player Israel Folau’s posting on social media of a meme stating that various groups of sinners, including “homosexuals”, were destined for hell unless they repented and put their trust in Jesus Christ. He was immediately threatened with dismissal by his employer, Rugby Australia (“RA”), a threat subsequently implemented through an internal tribunal finding that he was guilty of a high level breach of the RA “code of conduct”.

Australia goes to the polls in a Federal election on May 18, 2019. It seems worthwhile to note, for those interested, some recent information about the views of the major political parties on religious freedom, and to report an important study of public opinion on the topic.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019 21:05

High Court upholds abortion buffer zone laws

In an important decision on free speech issues, the High Court of Australia, in its decision in Clubb v Edwards; Preston v Avery [2019] HCA 11 (10 April 2019), has upheld the validity of laws in Victoria and Tasmania prohibiting communication about abortion within 150m of an abortion clinic. The decision may have serious implications for free speech about other issues on which religious believers have deep-seated convictions contrary to the general orthodoxy of modern Australian society.

Thursday, 21 February 2019 09:01

Religious "vilification" not unlawful in NSW

In an important decision on religion and free speech in NSW, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal has ruled today in Ekermawi v Nine Network Australia Pty Limited [2019] NSWCATAD 29 (15 Feb 2019) that it is not a breach of the law in NSW to make offensive comments about a religion.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee has now (Feb 14, 2019) tabled its Report on the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018, a Private Senator’s Bill introduced last year by Senator Wong with the support of the ALP.

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