Camden Theological Library

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Legal Protection of Religious Freedom in Australia

Posted on 24 March 2013 Gavin Glenn

The role and place of religion in Australia have become more contested and controversial in recent years. Law makers now have to chart a difficult course between the traditional legal practices and the realities of a new multi-religious Australia.


This book examines the way in which the law protects (or fails to protect) freedom of religion or belief in Australia. Its first part considers the social, political, international and constitutional contexts surrounding religious freedom. The analysis includes legal distinctions between religion and concepts such as race, ethnicity, culture, and sincere belief; the varying legal definitions of religion; and the High Court's narrow interpretation of Constitution s 116, at odds with more expansive conceptions used in international law and some other domestic legal systems.


Part two of the book covers issues of particular contention or importance. It illustrates them with topical examples such as


The wearing of religious clothing, the refusal of medical treatment and the recognition of religious marriages. Then follow chapters on the application of non-discrimination laws to religion; religious vilification laws; and the manner in which the court system deals with the protection of religious freedom, for example the taking of oaths and affirmations, face coverings, and the role of courts in intra-religious disputes or disputes where religious law may apply.


This book brings together a wealth of information and insight.


It will appeal both to professionals who need to deal with religious issues in a legal context and also the reader who is interested in the role of religion in Australian law and society.


Professor Carolyn Evans is Dean
and Harrison Moore Professor
of Law at Melbourne Law School,
University of Melbourne.


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