Annual Notre Dame lecture challenges human rights as a secular construct.
Senator the Honourable George Brandis QC, Commonwealth Attorney-General and Minister for the Arts, challenged the notion of human rights as a secular construct at The University of Notre Dame Australia School of Law’s Annual Lecture on Religious Liberty at the Sydney Campus on Wednesday 20 August 2014.
Senator Brandis began the lecture, which was hosted by Notre Dame’s School of Law Sydney, by discussing his role as Attorney-General, and the relationship between the role and religious liberty.
“One of my objectives as Attorney-General has been to restore balance and pluralism to the human rights debate by reintroducing into the discussion the shamefully neglected but most fundamental of all human rights; the right to personal freedom,” Senator Brandis said. “No one can be taken seriously in the human rights debate if they do not accept the centrality to that debate of the freedom of the individual.
One of the fundamental freedoms of which we have heard far too little, when we speak about human rights, is the right to religious freedom. “In fact not only is religious freedom being neglected, it has actually been the subject of open attack from those who dominate much of our political discourse.”
Senator Brandis reminded the audience of the lengthy history of human rights, and role of religion in human rights which is often overlooked. “It would be hard to find a human rights professor who was willing to admit that human rights owe more to religion than to the United Nations,” Senator Brandis said. “As we proceed in Australia to develop a fuller, richer, more balanced understanding of human rights, an understanding which restores the freedoms of the individual to the centre of the debate which is where it should be, let us ensure that we do not neglect the importance of religious liberty, and let us acknowledge the debt which our modern conception of human rights owes to the teachings and traditions of the Christian Church.”
Professor Michael Quinlan, Dean of the School of Law Sydney, believes the Senator’s lecture was an important contribution to the discussion of the place of the right to religious freedom in Australia. “With the rise of religious extremism in certain parts of the world – particularly in Iraq and Syria at the moment – and the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in Australia, religion can be considered very negatively in Australia,” Professor Quinlan said. “As the Attorney-General noted at the Acton Lecture earlier this year, the Honorable Dyson Heydon suggested that ‘Anti-Catholicism in Australia now might be called the racism of the intellectuals’.
In this context it was very refreshing to hear the Commonwealth Attorney-General focus attention on one of the many positive contributions of religion to the world: the role of Christianity in the development of human rights. “
This was the third annual lecture in the School of Law’s Annual Lecture on Religious Liberty series. I hope that this is the last of these lectures because I hope that the continuing and pressing need to discuss religious liberty will abate. However I have a great fear that the need for this lecture will only increase and that it will be on our annual calendar for many years to come.”
The Annual Lecture on Religious Liberty aims to place religious freedom on the public agenda and provide an opportunity for open and honest debate.
A 43 minute recording of the lecture can be found by clicking at Annual Lecture On Religious Liberty – George Brandis (Thirty minute talk, ten minutes of Q & A )
Source: National Alliance for Christian Leaders
See Also:Freedom 4 Faith