Freedom to have faith on the agenda

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The Rector of East Roseville, the Rev Michael Kellahan, has been appointed the executive director of Freedom for Faith – a legal think-tank that promotes and protects religious freedom in Australia.

Mr Kellahan will continue his work in the parish, combined with a part-time role at Freedom for Faith. “These are critical times for the future of religious freedom in Australia,” Mr Kellahan told Southern Cross. “Debates are happening and decisions are being taken now which could influence the cultural landscape for decades to come.”

Bishop Robert Forsyth and Professor Patrick Parkinson are among the leaders of the organisation, which also has advisers from Baptist, Presbyterian, Seventh-day Adventist and Pentecostal traditions, and from the legal profession. An office in North Sydney has been established as a base but the organisation will operate nationally as well as running a website, freedomforfaith.org.au.

“Freedom for Faith has only been around for a couple of years but in that time has very quietly achieved much in making representations to governments at a Federal and State level,” Mr Kellahan says.

“It has been very productive to have a specialised pool of legal expertise that can speak to matters that touch on religious freedom. As a think-tank it tries to do more than just be a voice of critique of policies and draft legislation – instead it works to help produce better laws.”

In March this year the group made a submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Freedoms Inquiry, which asked whether Commonwealth laws unjustifiably interfered with freedom of religion and what general principles should apply in the area.

This month, Freedom for Faith is holding a one-day conference at the University of Newcastle titled “Religious Freedom in a Multicultural World”. Australian Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson will be among the speakers.

“Religious freedom can’t stop at the door of the church, synagogue or mosque,” Mr Kellahan said.

“Religious people shouldn’t have to cast off this identity in order to walk through the public square. A truly multicultural liberal democracy will make space for the other, rather than insisting on an enforced secularism.”

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