News Release

Latter-day Saints Join Australian Conversation on Religious Freedom

Human Rights Commission invites representatives of various faiths to roundtable discussion

Representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined with other faith and community leaders last week in Sydney at a Human Rights Commission roundtable on religious freedom. 

From the Australian Human Right Commission:

In an opening address to the Religious Freedom Roundtable in Sydney today, the Attorney-General Senator George Brandis said there were inconsistent attitudes to religious tolerance and freedom in Australia.

The Roundtable was convened by Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson to discuss how best to advance religious freedom.

The Roundtable included members of the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, Anglican, Baha’i, Russian Orthodox and Buddhist faiths. They were joined by representatives of the Seventh Day Adventists, the Rationalist Society, the Humanist Society, the Atheist Foundation and the Church of Scientology.

The Attorney-General said such multi-faith conversations were “useful in shaping the government’s agenda, so far as it affects both people of religious faith and people who do not profess religious beliefs”.

“Religious freedom is every bit as important as political freedom,” Senator Brandis said.

“In Australia today, we have somewhat inconsistent attitudes to religious tolerance.  Members of the Islamic community are sometimes the victims of suspicion and hostility, directed against them by those ignorantly seeking to blame terrorist violence upon Koranic teaching. Members of Christian faiths – in particular the Catholic faith – are routinely the subject of mockery and insult by prominent writers and commentators.” 

Commissioner Wilson said the Roundtable was convened following the Rights and Responsibilities consultations last year, in which religious freedom emerged as a dominant theme.

“Those of different beliefs need to be active partners in reshaping the conversation about religious freedom if it is to be preserved in law,” Commissioner Wilson said.

“Increasingly non-faith groups are calling for freedom from religion. And religious communities have raised concerns about the declining respect for religious freedom as part of the human rights discussion.

“True pluralism requires respecting the importance of religion in a multi-faith society. The challenge is how.”

Commissioner Wilson said contemporary debates such as the forthcoming reform of the Marriage Act provide a “litmus test for how religious freedom will be treated in the future”.

Commissioner Wilson will host two additional roundtables in February 2016 to canvass the views of non-faith organisations and the views of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities.

The Roundtable included the following organisations:

Anglican Church of Australia
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines
Atheist Foundation of Australia
Australian Baha’i Community
Australian Baptist Ministries
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference – National office for the Participation of Women
Australian Christian Churches
Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney
Church of Scientology Australia
Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils
Hindu Foundation of Australia
Humanist Society of NSW
Lutheran Church of Australia
New Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia
Office of The Grand Mufti of Australia
Presbyterian Church of Australia
Rabbinic Council of Progressive Rabbis of Australia
Rationalist Society of Australia
Religious Society of Friends in Australia (Quakers)
Secular Coalition of Australia
Seventh-day Adventist Church – Australian Union Conference
Sikh Nishkam Society
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Russian Orthodox Church – Australian and New Zealand Diocese
United Muslim Women’s Association
Uniting Justice Australia

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