There have been headlines recently saying that the draft religious freedom bill has pleased nobody, churches included. Well, that’s not quite right. As Senator Amanda Stoker pointed out the strong pushback on some aspects of the bill is actually a “positive sign”. After all, she said, it was released as an exposure draft and was “meant to be the subject of constructive criticism”.
There are significant things that need to change but the issues are not simple and the balance of the legislation is difficult to get right. For our part, faith groups are committed to negotiating in-well-in good faith.
As another senator, Labour’s Deb O’Neill said this week there is an “ascendancy of language around secularity” that is trying to silence the perspectives of people of faith. But all Australians should feel free to “be who they are in a public place”.
I’m Russell Powell for the NSW Council of Churches