Submissions To The Religious Freedom Review ‘Will Be Published’

Philip Ruddock has said that public submissions to the religious freedom review will be published online and the deadline to submit them has been extended.

The former Howard Government minister is heading an expert panel to review “whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to religious freedom” following the passage of same-sex marriage legislation last month.

The panel met for the first time in Sydney on Wednesday.

Ruddock told ABC Radio on Thursday the panel had received over 100 submissions and agreed to extend the deadline until February 14.

“We want to be as open as possible in relation to the approach that we take,” he said.

“This is a matter that the panel agreed on and we’ve certainly taken the view that all the submissions we’ve received will be published, provided there aren’t any issues that might be of concern.

“There can be some legal issues, personal comments and matters of that sort that you have to deal with.

“But we would want to be as open as possible in relation to the material that is before us.”

The panel was due to deliver its findings by March 31, but Ruddock said on Thursday it may need more time.

LGBTI advocates were concerned about conflicting reports earlier this month that submissions to the review panel would be kept secret.

Advocacy group just.equal has launched a petition strongly opposing any weakening of Australian anti-discrimination laws and urging a national bill of rights to protect the LGBTI community from discrimination.

Ruddock told ABC Radio he personally took an “open-minded” approached to the complex issues of the review.

“I have a strong view that people should be free to practice their religion as they see it,” he said.

But he acknowledged that “many of the values of our religions are contemporised.”

“You can find death penalty in parts of the Bible, and that’s not something that I support and wouldn’t be encouraging in our legal framework,” he said.

Other panelists on the review include Human Rights Commissioner Rosalind Croucher, Federal Court Judge Annabelle Bennett, University of Queensland constitutional law professor Nicholas Aroney and Jesuit priest Father Frank Brennan.

Submissions to the review can be made through an online form on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s website here.

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