Dear Members of the Panel,
I was raised in an agnostic household however I attended Catholic education at Primary School and High School.
I was raised to be respectful of others beliefs yet also taught to make up my own decisions in terms of spirituality and not allow others to change my beliefs out of fear or shame.
I am not a religious person yet I appreciate many of the gentler aspects of the bible.
I recall in High School we had a very strict teacher who was deeply religious - he singled me out in front of the class and asked if I knew anything from the bible.
I quoted to him without thinking "make a joyful noise unto the lord - Psalm 100, verse 1".
The teacher was dumbfounded.
None of the other kids in the class could quote a verse so specific - he was shocked as he knew I wasn't Catholic.
To me the verse was engraved in my heart as it was my grandmother's favourite that she told me before she passed away.
The teacher never tried to embarrass me like that in class again and I never told him how I knew the verse despite him asking me a number of times.
As the old quote goes "Your religious freedom ends where my nose begins."
We live in a society where people are free to have their beliefs, as long as they don't invade another person's privacy or attempt to hurt others psychologically or physically.
I have watched in horror over the past year as the plebiscite debate has raged with awful nastiness - a debate about changing the definition of CIVIL marriage.
I emphasise the world Civil because it is important to note that the marriage act does not make reference to any specific religion - it is simply recognition by the State that two adults have agreed to join together in a unique relationship.
I understand that not everyone agrees with the changes to the marriage act - each to their own reasons and I don't judge them for that. However we now facing claims that religious freedoms are being eroded because of this change.
I'm yet to see any proof of this as religious organisations currently are allowed to refuse to marry a couple if they feel that their spiritual beliefs requires them to object. Once again - I have no problem with this - each to their own beliefs and most religions are usually very clear on their beliefs.
So why is this review required?
At what point do we say that a person's religious freedom is encroached? What is the limit?
Is it the flower stall outside a place of worship on the street, refusing to sell flowers to a gay couple due to their beliefs?
Or a civil celebrant refusing to marry a gay couple because of their beliefs?
From my perspective both of these scenarios are in public places - the flowers being sold outside and the civil celebrant would be available to the general public.
I believe this is the limit - once you leave your own private property or place of worship you are in the public domain.
People are free to speak and practice their beliefs publicly but on the one condition: as long as they do so peacefully and with respect.
If someone uses their religious beliefs to humiliate or hurt another person in public - it is clearly not acceptable.
We have laws that protect ALL of us from this kind of behaviour.
I do not wish to see these laws changes as they exist to protect everyone.