An open letter has been sent to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten from Christian, Jewish and Islamic faith leaders across Australia, asking them to keep the promise each of them made to the Australian people during the postal survey that religious freedoms would be protected.
The text of the letter is below, as is the list of current signatories. Additional names will be added as more faith leaders add their names.
Dear Prime Minister and Mr Shorten
Re: Open Letter Concerning the Need for Adequate Protection of Freedoms in the Context of Same-Sex Marriage.
The recent postal survey result has indicated that the will of a majority of Australians is to support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Polling has shown, however, that regardless of voting intention, even more Australians support the
Parliament's guaranteeing in law freedoms of conscience, belief and religion when it legislates for same-sex marriage.
We welcomed your respective independent undertakings, given during the postal survey, that such freedoms would be protected in the event of a Yes vote. Much turns, however, on what is enfolded within the content of those freedoms.
The Senate has now voted against amendments that aim to reasonably accommodate these matters.
We therefore write to voice our concern that the Bill now due for consideration by the House of Representatives does not address adequate consideration of these fundamental freedoms.
While our view is held in relation to a range of matters, the following are worthy of particular note.
In particular, it is our view that the amendments to the Bill proposed by Senators Paterson and Fawcett in the Senate on 28 November 2017 provide balanced and reasonable measures that respond to such concerns, and many others, while also acquitting Australia's international obligations.
A change in the definition of marriage to permit same-sex couples to marry inevitably requires consideration of how that change will interact with existing rights held in the community. That consideration must be undertaken at the time of the change. To delay consideration of how the right of same-sex couples to marry will interact with the religious and conscientious freedoms of individuals and institutions in our community is to accept that it is permissible that those rights could be breached in the interim period until further legislation is progressed, if at all.
In addition, once the definition of marriage alters, the question immediately arises as to whether a charity that holds a traditional view of marriage will retain its charity status at law. In particular we note that the Acting Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commissioner has indicated in his 24 November 2017 letter to Senator Smith that one way to address the concerns that have been raised may be to provide in the amending legislation that nothing in the legislation adversely affects an entity's charitable status by reason only that the entity holds or expresses a position on marriage.' The amendments proposed by Senators Fawcett and Paterson address this concern.
The majority decision of the United States Supreme Court in 2015 which recognised a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in that country, also acknowledged the view that ‘[m]arriage ... is by its nature a gender-differentiated union of man and woman ... long has been held-and continues to be held-in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world.'
A change in a social institution that is as fundamental as that of marriage has wide-ranging implications for our community. The amendments of Senators Fawcett and Paterson offer a reasonable means to unify our nation by effecting the will of the majority who voted in favour of same-sex marriage, while also incorporating the legitimate beliefs of those who are concerned for the protection of freedoms in our community.
Signatories so far:
Most Rev. Dr Glenn Davies
Anglican Archbishop of Sydney
Most Rev. Anthony Fisher OP
Catholic Archbishop of Sydney
Most Rev. Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
Maronite Bishop of Australia
Pastor Jorge Munoz
President, Seventh-Day Adventist Church
National President, Australian Christian Churches
Rev. Keith Jobberns
National Ministries Director, Australian Baptist Ministries
Pastor Wayne Swift
National Leader, Apostolic Church Australia
Senior Minister, Life Ministry Centre
Executive Assistant to Bishop Suriel
Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Melbourne and Affiliated Regions
Rev. Dr John P Wilson
Moderator-General, Presbyterian Church of Australia
Most Rev. Julian Porteous DD
Catholic Archbishop of Hobart
Rev. Dr Hedley Fihaki
National Chair, Assembly of Confessing Congregations within the Uniting Church in Australia
Very Rev. Father Tadros El-Bakhoumi OAM
Senior Priest, Coptic Orthodox Church NSW
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
Antiochian Orthodox Church of Australia
Sheikh Yahya Safi
Imam, Lakemba Mosque
Sheikh Youssef Nabha
Imam, Arrahman Mosque
Rabbi Dr. Shimon Cowen
Director, Institute for Judaism and Civilization
Basilios Georges Casmoussa
Apostolic Visitor in Australia, Syriac Catholic Church
Mor Malatious Malki
Metropolitan Archbishop, Syrian Orthodox Church
His Grace Bishop Daniel
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Church - Diocese of Sydney and Affiliated Regions
Most Rev. Michael Kennedy
Catholic Bishop of Armidale
Bishop Amel Nona
Eparch of Chaldean Diocese in Sydney
President, Acts 2 Alliance Churches
Most Rev. Columba Macbeth-Green OSPP
Catholic Bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes
Most Rev. Robert Rabbat
Bishop, Melkite Eparchy of Australia
Monsignor Basil Sousanian
Parish Priest, Armenian Catholic Church
Father Youssef Youssef
Rector, Coptic Catholic Church
Rev Dr Leo Douma
Chairman, Synodical Interim Committee, Christian Reformed Churches of Australia