Religious Freedom and the Australian Constitution: Origins and future
Routledge, $242 hb, 288 pp, 9781138555785
The role of religion in public life in Australia has become a prominent issue again as a consequence of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey. Significant opposition to the passage of marriage equality in 2017 was due to the mobilisation of many faiths and denominations. The centrality of religion in the marriage equality debate is best demonstrated by the title of the legislation amending the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) to permit same-sex marriage – the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 (Cth). Although religious and other objections to marriage equality did not prevail, the interests of religion were protected. Before marriage equality became law, the Turnbull government established an expert panel, chaired by Philip Ruddock, to conduct a review of the adequacy of legal protections of religious freedom in Australia. After receiving more than 15,000 submissions and conducting private hearings, the expert panel gave its report to the government in mid-May 2018. What it recommends, and whether its recommendations are acted upon, are as yet unknown.