THE NEWLY renamed Australian Human Rights Commission last week launched the Freedom of religion and belief in the 21st century discussion paper.
The discussion paper forms part of a comprehensive investigation by the commission into the right of freedom of religion, as first set out in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the context of Australian society.
According to Race Discrimination Commission Tom Calma, the intent of the investigation is to “examine and report on the extent to which this right can be enjoyed in Australia today by drawing from practical everyday experiences and observations”.
Launching the discussion paper, Calma noted that issues raised by the intersection between religion and human rights can be seen regularly in the news. As examples, he noted the issue of the interaction between security issues and religious freedom following events such as 9/11, the treatment of women in various religions and the extent to which religion and religious institutions should be involved in the schooling system.
“Given the prominence of such issues in the headlines, and, indeed, our lives, I see it as timely that they be comprehensively evaluated in terms of their impact in the practise, expression and perception of religion and spirituality in Australia,” he said.
Submissions are being accepted on the discussion paper until 31 January 2009 and a final report is due for release in early 2010. The report’s three researchers are Gary Bouma, Desmond Cahill and Dr Hass Dellal.
Calma said he hoped the report would provide “the most comprehensive analysis of religion, belief and human rights ever undertaken in Australia”.