News Release

Scholars to Explore Religious Freedom Issues in Series of Events

This month two scholars will speak to audiences in Australia and New Zealand on the question: “Freedom of conscience under siege – Déjà vu or something new?”

Neville Rochow SC is an adjunct professor at Sydney’s University of Notre Dame and adjunct associate professor at the University of Adelaide. He has over two decades of experience as barrister, being appointed silk in 2008. He has spoken and published nationally and internationally.

“Despite the persistence of religion as an institution in societies, both in the East and in the West, the question of religious freedom also persists throughout the world,” Professor Rochow says.

“Are these questions new? Or are we merely experiencing a form of déjà vu? To answer these questions, we need to compare and contrast our own times with some earlier times. That includes times when religion was either the principal preoccupation of the world or was studiously ignored.”

He continues: “I think that we need to take a fresh look at our laws that regulate discrimination and ‘hate speech’ so that they are fairly calibrated. Inherent in our humanity is the concept of conscience. It needs to be protected to preserve dignity. And no conscience is to be favoured over another. That is not always the outcome under current anti-discrimination laws.

“And on hate speech, we need to strike a balance that contemplates some offence but permits a free and safe market of ideas. I am looking at Europe, which is striving to achieve that under Article 52(3) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in line with provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. European Courts have made clear that for them, freedom extends to information and ideas that may ‘offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.' The key seems to be in dignity coupled with freedom to have new ideas to be tested in that market place.”

Fred E. Woods, a religion professor at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Hawai’i, has lectured in many countries on the subject of interfaith relations. He formerly held the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding at BYU Provo.

Professor Woods has a keen interest in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. He served a two-year mission in Adelaide as a younger man and has written two books and produced two historical documentaries about Latter-day Saints in Australia. 

Professor Rochow and Professor Woods will speak to audiences in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton from 2-20 May.

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