The Perth Declaration for the Defence of Christianity in Australia

Editor’s note: Prof. William Wagner served as the Keynote Speaker at a historic conference of lawyers, policymakers, and scholars in Australia. Emerging from this special meeting is the following declaration.

On 14-15 June 2019, at Sheridan College in Perth, Western Australia, we the undersigned either presented or introduced presenters at the conference ‘Religious Freedom at the Crossroads: The Rise of Anti-Christian Sentiment in the West’.

We gathered over a common concern about various forms of attacks on religious freedoms generally, and Christianity in particular. We noted the deteriorating circumstances of Christians both internationally and in Australia. Internationally, Christians face increasing violence and persecution. In Australia, there is growing anti-Christian sentiment, which is evident in certain parts of the public and private sectors.

Increasingly, Australian Christians avoid speaking publicly about matters involving their faith because they fear any or all of the following:

  • Internet outrage campaigns.
  • Social media censorship.
  • Complaints to public authorities under anti-discrimination laws.
  • Being subject to disciplinary proceedings and/or dismissal by their employers.

We believe that Australians must now ensure that their fundamental freedoms are maintained. Critical among these freedoms are those of thought, belief, religion, conscience, expression, and association. These freedoms are vital to a truly free and democratic society.

We support the freedom of Christians to peacefully organise and to speak according to their faith.

We support the freedom of Christians to peacefully challenge any and all ideas or actions, be those ideas or actions religious or secular.

We support the freedom of others to peacefully challenge the ideas or actions of Christians, and we welcome those challenges.

We support the idea that peaceful challenges to ideas or actions include intense and searching criticism.

We reject the idea – one increasingly fashionable but always wrong – that such peaceful challenges to ideas or actions constitute ‘hate speech’ or violence.

In light of the foregoing, we support the following measures:

  • Laws that protect the fundamental freedoms of thought, belief, religion, conscience, expression, and association.
  • Reform of anti-discrimination laws to better protect these fundamental freedoms.
  • Legal challenges against laws and other government action that unduly interfere with these fundamental freedoms.
  • Legal challenges against actions taken by those in the private sector who unduly interfere with these fundamental freedoms.

We call upon State, Territory and Commonwealth governments to undertake law reform. We also call upon every concerned Australian to support such reforms, as well as support legal challenges to defend fundamental freedoms. Pursuing these measures will defend the fundamental freedoms not only of every Australian Christian but of every Australian.

Perth/WA, 6th August 2019

AUGUSTO ZIMMERMANN
Professor and Head of Law, Sheridan College President, Western Australian Legal Theory Association  
WILLIAM WAGNER
Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Cooley Law School President & CEO, Salt & Light Global  
MARTYN ILES
Managing Director, Australian Christian Lobby  
JOHN STEENHOF
Managing Director, Human Rights Law Alliance
THE HON. JOHN GILMOUR QC
Barrister, Quayside Chambers Judge of the Federal Court of Australia (2016-2018)  
DARREN SOUTH
Founder and CEO, The Southern Justice International  
ASHLEY SAUNDERS 
CEO, Barnabas Fund Australia  
JOSHUA FORRESTER
Editor, The Western Australian Jurist  
CHRISTOPHER BROHIER
Barrister, Elizabeth Mews Chambers Founder, Wilberforce Foundation  
JOHNNY SAKR
PhD Researcher, The University of Southern Queensland  
TIM HOUWELING
Director, Cornerstone Legal  
STEVE HEATHCOTE
Steve Heathcote Barrister & Solicitor
ROBERT BALZOLA
Partner, Robert Balzola & Associates  
ROCCO LOIACONO
Senior Law Lecturer, Curtin University
ASHA TOWERS
Former NSW President, NCC (2017-2019)  
PATRICK BYRNE 
President, National Civil Council  
ANDREA TOKAJI
Lecturer, Alphacrucis College Lecturer, Excelsia College  
HEATH HARLEY-BELLEMORE
Solicitor; Vice-President, The Western Australian Legal Theory Association  
PETER ABETZ
WA Director, Australian Christian Lobby Former Member of the WA Legislative Assembly (2008 to 2017)  
THE HON. CHARLES SMITH MLC
Member for the East Metropolitan Region in the WA Legislative Council  
THE HON. MICHAEL SUTHERLAND
Former Speaker of the WA Legislative Assembly (2008 to 2017)
THE HON. AARON STONEHOUSE MLC 
Leader of the Liberal Democrats WA; Member for South Metropolitan Region
THE HON. NICK GOIRAN MLC
Shadow WA Minister for Child Protection; Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence
 

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