Liberal Senator James Paterson has backed Cabinet minister Dan Tehan’s call for a religious discrimination act, arguing that people of faith are being “hounded out of the public square”. Source: The Australian.
Senator Paterson said he was not aware of any examples of people’s religious rights being trampled or undermined since same-sex marriage was legalised last year, but argued protections were needed as “reassurance”.
On the weekend, Mr Tehan argued people of faith needed greater protections from the rise of “minority fundamentalism” and the “creeping encroachment from the state on religious belief” following the legalisation of same-sex marriage, the passage of assisted dying legislation in Victoria, and the introduction of laws compelling priests to break the seal of the confessional to report child sex abuse.
Senator Paterson said Australia was a secular country and he believed as an agnostic that religious freedom must be protected.
“It’s a right which Australia has signed numerous international treaties to say that we will protect, and secular societies more than any other must protect the pluralistic nature that allows us to freely worship who be believe, but also live out our values in the world,” he told ABC radio.
Asked who was currently being discriminated against, Senator Paterson said: “This is a risk that we want to guard against in the future. We don’t want people to be mistreated on the basis of their religious views.”
Pressed on whether the problem exists currently, he said: “I think that’s a bit of a negative focus to take on it.
“People of faith feel like they are being hounded out of the public square.
“They feel like their views are not as welcome in being contributed to public debate as others.”
Asked whether he could name specific people or faiths, Senator Paterson said “people generally of faith” felt it.
“I think Christians feel that more than others because Christians in this country have generally been in the past a clear majority, but trends show that they’re becoming an increasingly smaller group of our society, and as a result they feel like the place they once held in public debate and in public life is not as secure as it was, and you see people who espouse their views in public debate getting attacked increasingly viciously.”