Spotlight on religious freedom

31 Oct 2014

An influential group of academics, lawyers and religious leaders will gather at the University of Queensland this month to explore issues associated with religious freedom.

With a keynote address by the Attorney-General Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC, the Freedom of Religion conference will address ‘freedom of speech, conscience and association in a religiously tolerant society’.

Conference convener and UQ Law Professor Nicholas Aroney said religious freedom meant more than just the private rights of individuals to believe in a deity.

He said the conference would aim to develop and articulate the case for freedom of speech, conscience and association, and to explore lawful limitations of these freedoms in a multicultural society.

“Genuine religious faith involves living in harmony with others, and religious believers need to be free to express and practice their religion in community with each other,” Professor Aroney said.

“The law needs to respect the freedom of faith communities to exist, thrive and contribute to our society, subject to proper restraints on practices that are inimical to peaceful co-existence and respect for the rule of law.

“Religious freedom faces many serious challenges in our day, not only in places such as Iraq and Syria, but in Western countries as well.

“The papers presented at this conference will explore these vitally important issues.”

Professor Aroney and Sydney Law School’s Professor Patrick Parkinson have an Australian Research Council grant to explore innovative ways state and federal governments can protect and support the values, beliefs and cultural practices of diverse cultural and religious groups, with a focus on family life, community identity and freedom of conscience.

Organised by UQ’s TC Beirne School of Law, Christian lobby group ‘Freedom 4 Faith’ and Emmanuel College, the 2014 Freedom of Religion Conference will be held at St Lucia on 31 October.

Freedom 4 Faith Executive Officer Chelsea Pietsch said religious freedom involved more than freedom to worship, for example, by attending weekly worship at a local church, mosque or temple.

“It is a comprehensive right which also entails freedom of conscience, speech and association,” she said.

“Together, these four freedoms serve as the means by which people can consider, discuss, and debate important questions about human existence, as well as form genuine faith communities through which to live out their faith.”

Further details and registration are available here.