One and Free? Religious freedom in Australia

Can we possibly still trust each other across some of the bitterest divides of our time?

“We’re not going to live in a theocracy, we’re not going to replace the governor-general or a president with an ayatollah, a chief rabbi, a pope, or a Dalai Lama. The state must consider itself both neutral in religion and incompetent to adjudicate on religious affairs.” 

The Australian anthem may cheerfully assert that we are “one and free”, but periodic clashes show that we’re at a bit of an impasse when it comes to the question of religious freedom: is it legitimate, or just a cover for bigotry? Can we agree to disagree on fundamental things? What does it all mean for employers and employees?  

This episode of Life & Faith offers some framework thinking for what it would look like to get out of the rut of the culture wars and trust one another again. Theologian Michael Bird vividly sketches what secularism should and shouldn’t look like, and law professor Nicholas Aroney pierces beneath the turbulence of these culture clashes to talk about the fundamentals of love, trust, and hope in our life together. 

“All of us experience hurts, and I think we’re all tempted to respond by hurting others. But when we encounter love, it makes a very big difference – and I think that religion is very much driven by that. So if you don’t recognise that and you don’t allow room for that to blossom in your society in the small local ways just down the street, then you’re cutting off a source of support, a source of help, and even a vision for the future.” 



Michael Bird, Religious Freedom in a Secular Age: A Christian Case for Liberty, Equality, and Secular Government