To codify religious freedom is to constrain its reach

Your editorial (18/11) implies that all faiths are equal and that everyone’s rights, believers and unbelievers alike, will be protected. All faiths, and beliefs too, have concrete consequences, many of them horrible. In one faith it might be anti-Semitism that is scripture-based; in another, the right to beat wives and daughters; in another, stoning for adultery.

The proposed legislation cannot cherrypick one claim to revelation from God against another just because it deems one teaching “good” and another “bad” in the modern world.

Nicholas Partridge, Perth

As one conservative lawyer to another, I congratulate Peta Credlin for her succinct defence of our traditional liberties. We are fortunate to be the inheritors of an English common law presumption that, as she puts it, “we have the freedom to do anything that’s not expressly prohibited, rather than only the freedom that parliament has allowed us”.

Hence the annoyance with politicians who boast of “giving us back” freedoms curtailed by Covid-19. And, paradoxically, it is that presumption of freedom that is sometimes risked by well-meaning human rights codes.

Any formula of legislative words, not least those common to such codes, has a penumbra of interpretative doubt. One person’s right may clash with those of another; the more sweepingly expressed, the greater potential for that clash. Better for parliaments to tread cautiously in such matters and for MPs to rigorously scrutinise on our behalf any emergency laws that threaten that presumption in favour of freedom.

John Kidd, Auchenflower, Qld

I was startled to read that the religious discrimination bill will override state laws protecting LGBTQI+ staff from discrimination by faith-based organisations.

Tasmania has had such a law for over 20 years and it has worked well to foster safer, more inclusive workplaces without any complaints from faith leaders.

If that law is overridden, it will put at risk staff who came out knowing they were protected. It will also lower the quality of faith-based services because staff selection will not be based on merit alone.

Rodney Croome, president, Equality Tasmania, Hobart

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