Religious freedom influences Aussie election result

Australia’s Christian leaders say they think religious freedom was among “sleeper” issues that influenced voters to re-elect Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative coalition.

Mark Spencer, the national executive officer of Christian Schools Australia, says parents in marginal seats told his organisation they were concerned about the protection of religious freedom.

These people want to choose a school that reflects their values, he says.

“We know that parents in key marginal seats across Australia were saying to us how important the protection of values, beliefs and freedom of religion are to them.

“With religious freedom featuring in the campaign like never before, it is impossible to imagine that values were not front of mind for voters.”

Religious freedom became a talking point last month after Wallaby Israel Folau’s social media post saying homosexuals, fornicators and adulterers were destined for hell unless they repented.

Folau was subsequently sacked by Rugby Australia.

Christian schools also campaigned on the issue of religious freedom ahead of the election.

The Christian leaders wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten before the election asking them to protect religious beliefs.

The letter said Mr Shorten had sponsored legislation “that would effectively censor what could be taught by religious bodies”.

Shorten did not respond to the letter.

Morrison said last week he believes “there is no more fundamental right than the right to decide what you believe or do not believe”.

“That means Australians of faith should be free to hold and practise that faith without fear of discrimination against them.

“And that is why my government is committed to providing Australians of religious belief with protections equivalent to those guaranteed in relation to other protected attributes under Commonwealth anti-discrimination law.

“Nobody should suffer discrimination on the basis of their identity, including their religious identity.”

John Wilson, the moderator-general for the Presbyterian Church of Australia, said he thinks religious freedom is a sleeper issue.

“You can talk franking credits, climate action, surpluses and deficits all you want, but you won’t explain what happened yesterday if you stop there. The sleeper in the discussion is that Labor threatened freedom of religious expression.”

“I think that many ordinary Australians pushed-back and voted for safe space – for a country where it’s OK to disagree and express that disagreement, to hold opposing views and not be marginalised for it. Mr Morrison’s reply to the church gave promise of safe space.”

Thanking his supporters, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had “always believed in miracles” as partial results showed the Liberal-National Coalition close to a majority.

“This was exposed time and again with respect to Christian schools being free to teach and live by their faith convictions.

“Also by challenging the right to free speech in public spaces when it comes to giving air to the traditional and conservative views on sexuality, gender and marriage.

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