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Over the Christmas period The Australian newspaper ran a series of articles about the appointment of Tim Wilson to the Australian Human Rights Commission and also drew attention to the lack of tolerance towards Christians around the world.
The Australian Editorial ("A grim outlook for Christianity", 26/12) was especially diligent in drawing attention to the tragic fate of Christian communities outside Australia. The plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt where 207 churches have been attacked is but one example.
However, the road to intolerance begins with one small step and Australian Christians and people of all faiths should be alarmed by the none too subtle curtailing of freedom of religion by Australia's anti-discrimination laws.
Professors Patrick Parkinson and Nicholas Aroney in their submission to the Inquiry into the Consolidation of Commonwealth Anti-Discrimination laws expressed concern that religious freedom, among other freedoms, was only grudgingly allowed "at the margins of discrimination law as a concessionary 'exception'."
That religious freedom is now no more than an "exception" should be a wake-up call to all those who understand that the corrosion of a freedom begins with one small speck of intolerance, codified by law.
The "Bolt Law" is the most recent example of just how quickly what was an assumed freedom can be curtailed by legislation and then acted upon to the detriment of an individual and society in general.
We know that Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, and the Attorney-General, George Brandis, are intent on vigorously pursuing freedom of expression, especially in the press.
Let us hope that both men are just as committed to The Australian's exhortation (26/12) that, "if the ... community values the principles of religious freedom and tolerance ... as it should, it is going to have to do more to defend it."
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 27 No 1 (February 2014), p. 16
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