Christian leaders seek assurances on religious freedom

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Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia president Pastor Jorge Munoz. Credit: Daniel Kuberek)

The president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia is among nine Christian leaders who have written to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, seeking assurances on “key issues” relating to the protection of religious freedom.

With less than a week until the Federal Election (May 18), Pastor Jorge Munoz and other Christian church and school leaders have signed off on separate letters (sent May 10), asking Mr Morrison and Mr Shorten to explain how they will protect religious freedom, and the related freedoms of conscience, speech and association.

Among the specific issues raised was whether the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader could provide certainty around faith-based schools being able to continue to teach in accordance with their doctrines. The political leaders were also pressed on whether they would commit to maintaining the ability of faith-based schools to employ staff who hold the beliefs of the school.

On the issue of faith-based charities, the letters sought assurances from the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader that charities would be able to continue to act authentically in accordance with their beliefs, “including in the practices they undertake and also by exercising discretion in whom they choose to employ”.

The letter to Mr Shorten acknowledges that the Labor Party’s National Platform “supports the appropriate protection of the religious freedom of all people”, but that this commitment “leaves wide scope for interpretation, and much will turn on what is considered ‘appropriate’ in the eyes of a legislator”.

The letter to Mr Morrison sought assurances that the Liberal Party, if re-elected, would stand by its commitment to implement recommendations from last year’s Ruddock review into religious freedom.

"As Australians head to the polls, we want our nation’s leaders to understand that protection of religious liberty is a significant issue and deserves careful consideration."

Pastor Munoz said it is important to know where Australia’s political leaders stand on these issues.

“We are very blessed to live in a country that was founded on the principles of religious freedom,” he said. “As Australians head to the polls, we want our nation’s leaders to understand that protection of religious liberty is a significant issue and deserves careful consideration.

“Please continue to pray for God’s hand over our nation so that we can continue to enjoy the freedom to worship, teach and live out our beliefs.”

The two letters were also signed by representatives of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, Australian Baptist Ministries, Assembly of Confessing Congregations of the Uniting Church in Australia, International Network of Churches, Apostolic Church Australia, Christian Schools Australia, Australian Association of Christian Schools, and Associated Christian Schools.