Brennan appointed to religious freedom panel

Fr Frank Brennan SJ (CSSA)

Jesuit priest and lawyer Fr Frank Brennan has been appointed to a panel tasked with reviewing protections for religious freedom in the wake of the same-sex marriage vote, the ABC reports.

The panel is to be chaired by former attorney-general Philip Ruddock, and will also include Human Rights Commission president Rosalind Croucher and former Federal Court judge Annabelle Bennett.

The bill to legalise same-sex marriage contains provisions so that ministers of religion cannot be forced to conduct same-sex marriages, but some MPs have raised concerns these provisions do not go far enough.

Ministers have been at odds over whether religious protections should be dealt with this year, as amendments to the same-sex marriage legislation, or delayed until 2018.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has now asked Mr Ruddock to conduct the review of religious freedoms and report back by the end of March next year.

"Any reforms to protect religious freedom at large should be undertaken carefully. There is a high risk of unintended consequences when Parliament attempts to legislate protections for basic rights and freedoms, such as freedom of religion,” Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Ruddock said the task would pose significant challenges, but the group would endeavour to come up with an appropriate response for the government.

"We treat our international human rights seriously and amongst those of course is the need to protect freedom of religion," he told the ABC.

"How we manage that within the context of difficult human rights obligations, which can sometimes be formalised in a way which takes it beyond the power of the parliament, you need to get the balance right.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Labor would consider the details of the review but was committed to working constructively and respectfully.

The Coalition for Marriage said the fact that the inquiry won’t report until after the Marriage Act is changed, is “a betrayal of the nearly five million Australians who voted against gay marriage”.

"Religious freedoms were central in the debate that occurred throughout the plebiscite campaign," the Coalition said in a statement. "Now the Prime Minister has said those freedoms need to wait."

Philip Ruddock to review religious protections amid same-sex marriage debate (ABC)

Philip Ruddock to take steam out of same-sex marriage debate (Australian Financial Review)

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