Book Review by Br Brian Grenier
CHALICE OF LIBERTY:
PROTECTING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN AUSTRALIA
By Frank Brennan, MA Casey and Greg Craven, the Kapunda Press
(Connor Court Publishing), RRP $24.95
The front cover of book under review features a chalice (now in possession of the Australian Catholic University) which dates from time of the English Reformation when the celebration of Mass was banned by King Edward VI (1547-53). It is an appropriate and eye-catching image for a book subtitled ‘Protecting Religious Freedom in Australia’.
Chalice of Liberty is divided into two parts
(i) ‘Nine Questions about Religious Freedom’ co-authored by Father Frank Brennan SJ (CEO of Catholic Services Australia and Adjunct Professor of Law at ACU) and Dr Michael Casey (Director of the PM Glynn Institute at ACU); and
(ii) ‘Protecting Religious Freedom’ by Professor Greg Craven (Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Constitutional Law at ACU).
Part One examines why religious freedom, a universal human right and a fundamental moral imperative, is
an important issue in the diverse and democratic society that is contemporary Australia. Having established
what they understand by religious freedom, the authors proceed to consider its limits, its part in building
community in the nation and the challenges it faces in our day.
They also examine what Catholics believe about religious freedom, what Australian law has to say about it and
whether it is discriminatory.
Taking account of all of these issues, the two authors conclude their contribution by enunciating ‘Ten
Principles of Religious Freedom’. Notable among them is the contention that it ‘upholds the intrinsic dignity of
people who think, believe, worship and live differently’. In this connection the Vatican II document, Dignitatis Humanae, states: ‘The right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person, as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by human reason’ (#2).
In Part Two, nicely complementing the rather more philosophical presentation of Father Brennan and Dr Casey, Professor Craven discusses the ways in which freedom of religion is currently protected in common law, international law, the Australian Constitution and federal, state and territory legislation. Looking to the future, he proposes legal and other fair and reasonable reforms that are necessary in the interests of a strong and decent society.
Aimed at a non-specialist readership, Chalice of Liberty is an important and timely work which combines convincing scholarship with felicity of expression. The first publication of the PM Glynn Institute’s Kapunda Press, it sets a high standard for future publications emanating from that source. Highly recommended.
(Irish-born Patrick McMahon Glynn, barrister, federationist, editor of the Kapunda Herald and parliamentarian, was one of the Founding Fathers of the Australian Constitution).