Australia’s PM believes in religious freedom more strongly than in same-gender marriage

religious freedom

“As strongly as I believe in the right of same-sex couples to marry, even more strongly do I believe in religious freedom,” says Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

A supporter of same-gender marriage, Turnbull defended the right of a church to refuse to marry a young couple who had posted support for same-sex unions on social media.

He was speaking after a Presbyterian minister had told a young couple in their 20s that they would not be allowed to hold their ceremony at the church after the bride posted a message on Facebook supporting same-gender marriage.

Pressed on whether the couple were being penalised for doing what he had encouraged them to do he said: “Churches are entitled to marry or not marry whom they please. That is part of religious freedom.”

Australia is in the midst of a non-compulsory, non-binding survey to inform Parliament whether or not it should legalise same-gender marriage.

Labour leader Bill Shorten has also issued a promise to voters, saying he had been “raised to be a person of faith” and would make sure their concerns would be treated with respect.

“Labour will not support legislation which ­impinges upon religious freedom in this country,” he said.

But former liberal party prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott have called for the government to outline protections for religious freedoms before the postal vote.

“Freedom of conscience should not be an afterthought from people who claim they support freedom,” Abbott said.

A number of church leaders and legal scholars have also joined in the call for the government to outline protections for religious freedoms ahead of the vote.

Advocates for change have drafted a bill that confirms the rights of ministers of religion to refuse to solemnise a same-gender marriage as well as the rights of ­religious organisations to refuse to provide services for wedding functions that breach their faith.

The lead proponent of this bill, Liberal senator Dean Smith, said those who considered these safeguards ­inadequate should offer “detailed legislative remedies” to address the issue.


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