Australia: The Highly Secretive Review Into Religious Freedom In Australia Is Being Accused Of "Bias"

The Ruddock review into religious freedom is being accused of favouring the side wanting to uphold and extend discrimination against LGBTI people.

The government's review into religious freedom was established late last year when the parliament was debating the same-sex marriage legislation. The panel, chaired by the former Liberal minister and now mayor of Hornsby, Philip Ruddock, convened in January and has accepted over 16,500 submissions.

Much of the operation of the review has been kept secret, however. None of the submissions have yet been published by the panel, and none of the 12 hearings being held by the panel over the course of this month are public.

The panel has defended this approach, saying that the private meetings allow groups to share their views "openly and honestly with the panel, in a respectful and safe environment".

In addition to these hearings, BuzzFeed News has learned that Ruddock and his fellow panellists attended a two-day religious conference called "Freedom of Religion or Belief: Creating the Constitutional Space for Other Fundamental Freedoms" put on by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies and the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic institution. 

A majority of the speakers at the conference appeared to favour retaining or extending the right of religious groups to discriminate, including: the CEO of the anti-same-sex-marriage group Marriage Alliance, Damian Wyld; Archbishop Julian Porteous, who sent a flyer to Catholic schools saying same-sex marriage was "messing with" children; Professor Patrick Parkinson, who has argued against same-sex marriage and has undertaken studies on behalf of the Australian Christian Lobby; and Augusto Zimmerman, a one-time contender for Australian Human Rights Commission president who has penned several articles arguing against same-sex marriage. Read more via Buzzfeed