James Paterson says Australians need to embrace a broad definition of religious freedom

Liberal senator James Paterson has appeared on the Australian Christian Lobby’s weekly video blog arguing that Australians need to accept a broad definition of religious freedom.

The government is yet to release the findings of the Ruddock Review into Religious Freedom, but government MP James Paterson has outlined his vision of how the rights of people of faith should be upheld.

Appearing on a video for the Australian Christian Lobby, Senator Paterson spoke to the organisations Managing Director Martin Iles.  The Victorian politician said Australia was a pluralistic society and people should be able to live alongside one and other even if their values were different.

“We should be able to go about our own lives happily and peacefully without trying to force one and other to adopt our values.”

Senator Paterson said “some on the left” of politics believed religious freedom was permission to hold you’re beliefs in your own head – and that was it.

“There’s a broader definition of religious freedom which I hold to, which is – not only do you have the right to believe what you wish to believe, but you have a right to live your life according to those values, that you are able to manifest your religious belief out in the world.”

Senator Paterson it was “disturbing” that “the left” had a view of religious freedom that aimed to limit people’s religious life to just their thoughts.

“It’s very common  on the left to talk about their love of  diversity, but they’re only interested in particular kinds of diversity. They’re interested in the diversity of characteristics like race or gender or sexuality or age or disability or a whole other range of things. They’re not generally interested often in diversity of beliefs, on diversity of opinions, of diversity of perspectives.” Senator Paterson said.

Senator Paterson argued that it is not possible to separate freedom of speech and freedom of conscience from religion because they had historically come from religious based discussions.

The ACL’s Managing Director Martin Iles said people of faith are often being told they are being intolerant when they share their thoughts, and asked Senator Paterson for his advice on how to counter that assertion.

“So many of the arguments against religious freedom use the language of tolerance. They say, ‘If we allow your religious freedom then you’re going to go into the public square, and you’re going to say some people are wrong, and some people are right, and that’s just completely intolerant.’ How do you counter that narrative that we’re actually apparently the intolerant ones?” Iles asked.

“The left often use the word tolerance, but they don’t mean tolerance – what they often mean is approval.” Senator Paterson responded. “Tolerance is a powerful virtue in a western society, because despite the fact that we sometime don’t approve sometimes of how our fellow citizens live their lives or behave, we still none the less tolerate them.”

“When the left says ‘we want tolerance’, really what they are typically talking about is forced approval. It’s not sufficient to say you tolerate someone else, you have to give them a big tick, give then an endorsement and say ‘that’s a lifestyle that I aspire to, or I think is a good one, that I’m happy for my children to adopt.'”

Senator Paterson said the case of Tasmanian Bishop Julian Porteous had given him concern about state based anti-discrimination laws and he found it “profoundly disturbing”.

The politician said many Victorians had also contacted him with concerns about the Safe Schools program and how it was impacting on religious freedom.

While his amendments to the marriage laws were knocked back Senator Paterson is hopeful that similar protections will be recommended by the Ruddock Review and he was hopeful his coalition colleagues would be supportive of bringing in new laws.

OIP Staff