An Australian Charter of Rights? Great Opportunity in Melbourne!

An information session for all Christians.

Wednesday 27 May 2009
Auditorium, Crossway Centre
Vision Drive, Burwood East

The Commonwealth Government is examining the proposed introduction of a Federal “Charter Of Human Rights” and has appointed Fr Frank Brennan as Chairperson along with Mary Kostakidis, Mick Palmer and Tammy Williams.

They have been tasked with asking the following questions and reporting to the Government.

Which human rights and responsibilities should be protected and promoted?
Are human rights sufficiently protected and promoted?
How could Australia better protect and promote human rights?

Many Christians are concerned that such a Charter would limit Christian freedom. Should they be concerned?

As a service to the Christian community, this special session has been organised by The Australian Christian Lobby, the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and the Church & Nation Committee, Presbyterian Church of Victoria.

Key speakers:
Professor Greg Craven, Vice-Chancellor Australian Catholic University
Bob Carr, former Premier of NSW
Jim Wallace, Australian Christian Lobby

This event will include a panel based Q&A session with questions submitted in writing on the night.

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7 Responses to An Australian Charter of Rights? Great Opportunity in Melbourne!

  1. John Weidner says:

    Your mentor should be an author you know well, Joyce A. Little. Specifically, what she wrote about authority and power.

    True “rights,” what America’s founders called inalienable rights, can only come from Authority. In America’s case, our rebellion was fought for “The Rights of Englishmen,” which were hallowed by ancient (Catholic Christian) usage, and ratified over the centuries by documents like Magna Carta. The ultimate authority was God.

    The rights of Englishmen are derived from God, not from king or Parliament, and would be secured by the study of history, law, and tradition.
    –John Adams

    If you just sit down and invent some rights, they are not rights at all. Next years Parliament can just repeal them and pass some new “rights.” Those rights come from Power, not from Authority.

    And Christians should be especially antagonistic to any supposed rights that involve taking from others. Or that involve lifting our own duties onto the shoulders of others (usually government). In America we hear a lot about a purported “right to health care.” But that really means taking money (by taxation) from A to pay for B’s health care. I’d say that the Christian view in this case is that we have a duty to care for our own health, and a moral obligation to help those who cannot help themselves. The new “right” destroys both duty and moral obligation.

  2. jules says:

    It is a good idea. But I’m afraid that it could be used to violate conscience rights ,in cases of health care workers .

  3. Peregrinus says:

    I don’t see any particular reason to think that a bill of rights is more likely to violate the conscience of health-care workers than any other law.

    We have an example, in fact, of precisely the reverse happening lately in Victoria. The recent abortion legislation – an ordinary Act of Parliament – requires health care workers who have a conscientious objection to abortion to refer women seeking abortions to others who have no such objection. It is obvious that someone with a conscientious objection to performing an abortion might also have a conscientious objection to referring someone for an abortion, and so this law is a violation of the right to freedom of conscience. This would be a big problem under the Victorian Charter of Rights, which explicitly protects the right of conscience, were it not for the fact that legislation dealing with abortion is exempted from that Charter and consequently does not need to respect it. So here the Charter would help to [i]protect[/i] the rights of conscience of health-care workers, but has been prevented from doing so by restrictive drafting.

    Ironically the exemption, I understand, was demanded by (among others) Catholic pressure groups – in the light of hindsight, an obvious mistake, from which one would think they would be keen to learn.

    Frank Brennan has a good article on this in the current [i]Quadrant[/i].

    • Donna says:

      At the end of the day whichever Parliament introduces a Bill of Rights which is not based on Christian values and beliefs, one might say that as a Christian we all have our own unlegislated faith guided right to say “no “to anything which is in opposition to our individual conscience. Speaking for myself I would definetely not be coaxed or cohersed into anything that I felt might disturb my conscience. No matter what the consequence.

      • Peregrinus says:

        Sure. But obviously we’d all rather be in a position where we didn;t have to break the law in order to behave conscientiously.

        Jules is suggesting that a charter of rights presents a particular risk of conflict withc consience. My point is that I don’t see any reason to assume that a charter of rights presents a greater risk than any other type of law, and I point to the recent Victorian case in which another law violated conscience in a way that the charter of rights would have prevented, had the charter been allowed to operate.

        Protection of conscience is not a reason for opposing a charter of rights. It all depends on what the charter actually says.

  4. jules says:

    The charter needs to be absolutely clear that health care worker’s freedom of conscience- the freedom to act according to their moral convictions- will be protected. Violations on the freedom of conscience will have dire consequences for our health care system, including reduced access to quality medical services. Patients will suffer as health care providers leave the profession (or are fired) due to their convictions, as fewer students pursue health professions, as religious and faith-based hospitals and institutions shut their doors or limit the services they provide, and as providers feel pressured to counsel on or perform services they do not believe in. But there is a real danger, Peregrinus , as you know the USA has a rich heritage of freedom of conscience that has existed since independence, however the Obama Administration is planning to rescind those regulations that would take away protections that prevent retribution, harassment, and intimidation against medical professionals for choosing to act according to their consciences. Such retribution includes job loss, denial of promotions, denial of educational opportunities, and other forms of discrimination.

  5. Peregrinus says:

    Hi Julie

    Two responses:

    1. A charter of rights should protect liberty of conscience, and not just for health-care workers. But that goes to what’s in the charter, not whether there should be one. Resisting the idea of a charter on this basis is a mistake.

    2. Granting what you say about the current experience in the US, it doesn’t seem to me to weight against a charter of rights. Your problem is with the policies of the Obama administration, not with the terms of the US Bill of Rights; if there is an implicit criticism of the Bill of Rights in what you say it’s that it’s not strong enough.

    But even that needs further thought. The US Bill of Rights does explicitly protect the free exercise of religion, and that must provide potential grounds for a constitutional challenge to measures which require a health-care worker (or anyone else) to act in violation of their own religious convictions. So it’s not impossible that some of what the administration is proposing may be found, when challenged in the courts, to be unconstitutional. Furthermore, we don’t know that the administration wouldn’t propose something even more radical and oppressive than what they are proposing, but refrain because they know it wouldn’t survive a constitutional challenge.

    In short, I see no reason to think that the position in the US would be any better if they had no Bill of Rights, and plenty of reasons to fear that it might be worse.

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