Leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia are among 25 faith leaders who have released a statement ahead of the anticipated release of the latest draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill.
In the statement, the group of faith leaders, including Australian Union Conference president Terry Johnson and Adventist Schools Australia national director Daryl Murdoch, expressed their gratitude for the government’s extensive consultation on the bill, which is expected to be debated in Parliament on November 23.
“This consultation is appropriate, given that any such bill will necessarily have a significant effect upon people of faith and the religious bodies and organizations which they have established,” the statement said.
Protections against religious discrimination at a federal level are “long overdue,” according to the statement: “Federally, there is at present little if any legislative protection against discrimination directed at a person based on their religious identity and belief, and there are inconsistencies in the manner in which states and territories have addressed the issue, if at all.
“This is in contrast to the existence of federal legislation which protects against discrimination based on certain other attributes.”
The bill was promised by Australian prime minister Scott Morrison at the 2019 election and builds on the 2018 religious freedom review conducted by former attorney general Philip Ruddock.
Michael Worker, director of religious liberty and public affairs for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia, urged church members to pray over the issue.
“Please pray for our nation and our nation’s leaders as they come together to debate the bill,” he said, “that we will continue to be a peaceful and tolerant society, where everyone works together for the common good. It is important that Australia continues to thrive as a modern, pluralistic society, where basic human rights are fairly and reasonably balanced.”
Members and Leaders Gather to Pray
On November 12, Seventh-day Adventists around the South Pacific gathered for a special time of prayer with a focus on religious freedom.
About 100 people participated in the online prayer gathering, including church groups from Albury, New South Wales; Port Augusta, South Australia; and Manjimup, Western Australia. The event was organized by the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty team at the South Pacific Division (SPD).
Short introductions to the prayer topics were presented by SPD president Glenn Townend, SPD Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director Nick Kross, Trans-Pacific Union Mission president Maveni Kaufononga, Johnson, and Worker. Participants then prayed together in small groups.
Prayers were offered for God's guidance and leading, for state and national leaders, for staffing of Adventist schools in Fiji, and the New South Wales Religious Discrimination Bill and other legislation being debated by governments around Australia.
Kross said the prayer gathering was the first hosted across the South Pacific, and there will be more to come.
“We are aware of the many issues that are being discussed at state and national levels in Parliament, and our desire is to enlist God’s guidance with our government leaders,” he said.
“As a faith-based organization, our values are founded upon Scripture. Many of these values are being challenged, and like many Christians before us, we are to seek God’s guidance, protection, and leading at this time.
“Let us all continue to pray as we continue to share the faith we have in Christ and the message of hope He provides for us.”