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Marriage law must include protections for religious freedom


Australia's Catholic bishops have called for respect for religious freedom as the Federal Parliament prepares to debate same sex marriage legislation.

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Parliament must work to unify Australians by respecting different views on marriage, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Denis Hart said today in the wake of the result of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics announced today that 61.6 per cent of respondents voted ‘yes’ for same sex marriage and 38.4 per cent voted ‘no’.

“The Catholic Church, and many others who sought to retain the definition of marriage as it has been understood for centuries, continues to view marriage as a special union between a woman and a man, which allows for the creation and nurture of children,” Archbishop Hart said.

“A change in civil law does not change the Catholic understanding of the nature of marriage. “The Catholic Church continues to respect the dignity of LGBTIQ Australians and our ministries will continue to care deeply about the dignity and value of all people we encounter.

“Parliamentarians must recognise and respect the concerns of the more than 4.8 million Australians who opposed a change to the definition of marriage by putting in place strong conscience and religious freedom protections.

“These protections must ensure that Australians can continue to express their views on marriage, that faith-based schools can continue to teach the traditional understanding of marriage and that organisations can continue to operate in a manner that is consistent with those values.”

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher said he wished to acknowledge all those who had courageously spoken up for traditional marriage in very difficult circumstances.

“From the outset it has often seemed a David and Goliath struggle with politicians, corporates, celebrities, journalists, professional and sporting organisations drowning out the voices of ordinary Australians and pressuring everyone to vote Yes,” the Archbishop said.

“What’s remarkable is how many stuck to their guns and voted No or abstained.”

Bishop of Port Pirie Diocese Greg O’Kelly SJ said the result was not unexpected and the debate had been turned from being about “marriage” to about “equality”.

“The Yes vote was argued in terms of discrimination but little was said on the true nature of marriage, apart from statements such that a love between a couple is all that matters,” he wrote in a pastoral letter to the faithful.

“The Catholic understanding of marriage is reinforced by rich theology spanning well over a thousand years, and reaching back to the words of Jesus Himself, that a man will cling to his wife and the two will become one flesh…in our view marriage remains a holy event, and is a sacred Sacrament.”

While the dignity of people of same-sex attraction “must not be assailed”, he called on the Government to legislate that “those millions of us who remain in favour of traditional marriage are free to speak, teach and act on this belief”.



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