by Christian Berechree
CHURCHES need to maintain the right to decide who they will and won't marry.
That's according to Lutheran senior pastor for the South Burnett parish Mark Doecke.
Pastor Doecke spoke in response to Maranoa MP David Littleproud's calls for people to have their say in the Religious Freedom Review.
The review, announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on November 22, will look into whether Australian law adequately protects rights to religious freedom.
It comes after changes to the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry.
"As a Christian pastor I would strongly support anything which gives churches and their ministers the right to conduct marriages that fall within the traditional definition of marriage pre the most recent changes to the Marriage Act,” Pastor Doecke said.
"Religious organisations need to have the freedom to discriminate in such matters as what marriages they will conduct according to their tenets of faith.”
Pastor Doecke said under current legislation, he and other religious practitioners do have these rights.
His view was echoed by Kingaroy Catholic parish priest Father Chukwudi Chinaka.
"Our position is clear on this, the rights to religious freedom and freedom of conscience are basic human rights, not just for a selected few like ministers but for everyone,” he said.
"If we want to create a free and fair Australia for everyone, we cannot deny them these rights.”
Australian Christian Churches, of which Highway Christian Church Kingaroy is a member, national president Wayne Alcorn signed a letter to the Prime Minister about religious freedoms.
The letter, sent on December 1, said polling showed the majority of Australians supported guarantees that religious freedom would be protected under marriage legislation.
It called for protection of parental rights regarding their children's religious education, the rights of religious institutions to "ensure that their facilities are used in accordance with their beliefs” and referred to "the concern that charities that express a traditional view of marriage will lose their charitable status at law”.
Mr Littleproud said religious freedom had been constantly raised while the postal survey on same-sex marriage was carried out.
"During the conversation surrounding same-sex marriage, the protection of parental rights, religious freedom and free speech were consistently raised and - if these issues matter to you - be sure to have your say on the Religious Freedom Review before it closes next week,” Mr Littleproud said.
He said he voted "no” in the House of Representatives in accordance with his electorate's views.
The Coalition Federal Government has appointed the Hon Philip Ruddock to examine whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to religious freedom.
The Prime Minister has asked Mr Ruddock to report his findings by March 31.
Submissions close February 14.
Visit www.pmc.gov.au/ domestic-policy/religious- freedom-review to make a submission.