Faith-based education
Is a human right

An essential part of the internationally recognised human right of freedom of religious belief and activity is the right of parents, “to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions” (ICCPR 18.4).

Faith-based schools are a human right.

What is the ICCPR?

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a multinational treaty that commits nations to respect the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial. 

Australia was instrumental in writing the ICCPR, and is a key signatory. The ICCPR is listed by the Attorney General’s office as one of the seven core international human rights treaties that Australia is a signatory to.

The ICCPR is a major reference point when discussing freedom of religion. As a signatory, Australia is required to protect the rights listed in it. However, at this point, there is no federal legislation to adequately protect religious freedom rights. Instead, protection for religious freedom rights exists in a patchwork manner in other state and territory-based anti-discrimination legislation. This approach means that in jurisdictions where religious freedoms are inadequately protected, Australians are unable to look to protections at the federal level that will secure their religious freedoms. The 2018 Ruddock Review highlighted this deficiency and called for the enactment of a Religious Discrimination Act to protect these essential freedoms.

Article 18 of the ICCPR is the most significant article regarding religious freedom:

ICCPR Article 18:

  1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
  2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
  3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
  4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

When a religious school acts in accordance with its beliefs, it is exercising a legitimate human right protected under international law. Religious freedom rights will be seriously undermined if the Government’s proposed discrimination law reforms are passed.

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Authorised by Mike Southon, Freedom for Faith, 168 Chalmers St, Surry Hills NSW