On Thursday August 1, in the NCC office in Perth, Professor of Constitutional Law Augusto Zimmermann addressed an audience of more than 60 NCC youth on the topics of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Many of the young people were university students concerned about the erosion of the freedoms we enjoy in this state and nation.
These freedoms are not written in law but exist in our society; and they are freedoms that have, of late, come under attack. Evidence of this comes from the students and young professionals themselves asking the questions.
“Often I have an opinion, but how much of it am I allowed to share? (We are not talking about hate speech or the like.) Rather, if I have a conscientious objection to certain policies in my workplace or place of learning, am I allowed to share it? If I do, what are the repercussions” Will I lose marks? Or my job?”
The case of Israel Folau has given some urgency to such questions. We are not talking about the specific passage Folau referred to, but more broadly the Bible as a whole. Will you be boxed into a certain group if you quote any passage from the Bible, or even just say you are Christian?
In the workplace, you have an obligation to toe the line in what you say and do, in accordance with the contract that you have signed and for fairness in the workplace. However, outside of the workplace, you are free to do and say what you like in your own private life and activities.
If your employer tells you how to think and act outside your workplace, you are under their control, not just nine-to-five but 24/seven. This smacks of slavery. Furthermore, will you prosecuted for being associated with groups advocating for free options for citizens?
The freedom of conscience and association is a topic of concern, especially to all those involved in pro-life work. Western Australia faces possible laws on buffer zones, laws that would prevent sidewalk councillors from offering an option to those seeking an abortion.
The aim of these highly trained and qualified councillors is not to pressure or coerce those seeking an abortion. But to stand, peacefully, with a caring, loving option, to hear the stories of the girls and let them know people are there willing to listen to them and offer them all the support they may need at a difficult time. Offer them options, which more often than not, they have not had the opportunity of hearing.
Freedoms extend to freedom of choice, and preventing women from hearing the full range of choices, which they will not have heard anywhere else (such as accept help and keep their child), is a dreadful injustice. Yet this is what the buffer zones are designed to prevent. Soon the elderly too, in relation to end-of-life choices, may be “buffered” from hearing the full range of choices.
Conscientious objection, especially in the workplace, is of upmost importance here in WA as we face an upcoming debate on euthanasia. Will doctors and nurses be able to object in public hospitals if they disagree with assisted suicide? If they believe that killing, whether it be the unborn or the elderly, goes against their oath and the very reason they became medical practitioners – to heal patients and save lives?
Will medical students be able to object if they are one day taught about giving terminal patients the option of assisted suicide? What will the repercussions be if they do object?
As we have learned, especially with assisted suicide, no safeguards are safe. And, as such, down the track, what effect will this have on the medical profession in WA and those good people who want to be doctors or nurses but are afraid of what will happen to them if they let their beliefs be known?
There are a lot of questions in this article, but that is because there is a lot of uncertainly around this topic, although we may soon have a better idea of where we stand.
Activists and sections of the media today are working to marginalise Christians in this country and they find themselves often having to question themselves before expressing their faith, even just to saying, “I am a Christian”.
Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter is drafting legislation to protect religious freedom and freedom of speech. We hope that the bill will aim to protect all the rights and freedoms we have come to enjoy in this country.
Sir Robert Menzies spoke of the real power of Australia being in the freedom of its people, and we should call on our society, political parties and governments to continue to protect this freedom.