I believe the freedom of a person to change their religion is fundamental to Christian understanding.
At General Synod I successfully argued for the inclusion of this freedom in a motion relating to freedom of religion.
My arguments for including the freedom of a person to change their religion were:
1. Turning to Christ is foundational to our Christian faith
The freedom to change a person’s religion is vital to the invitation of Christ to come; “follow me.”
In our Baptism Service, the priest asks the candidate, “Do you turn to Christ?” The candidate answers, “I turn to Christ.” The priest also asks, “Do you repent of your sins?” The candidate responds, “I repent of my sins.”
2. This key freedom of a person to change their religion is included in the UDHR
The General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed The UNIVERSAL DECLARATION of HUMAN RIGHTS (UDHR) 1948. It includes the freedom of a person to change their religion. Let us include it in our (General Synod) statement.
Article 18 Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
3. The freedom of a person to change their religion should not be taken for granted
The Islamic States refused to sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights because of the inclusion of this right. In 1990 the member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference made The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam. The freedom of a person to change their religion is not included in the Islamic response to the UDHR. In fact together certain Articles of the Islamic Declaration on Human Rights exercise force against a Muslim changing their religion. Articles 10 and 22: (Further info for comment, here):
Article 10 Prohibited to exercise compulsion or exploit…to convert him (a Muslim) to another religion or atheism.
Article 22 Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shariah.
For these 3 reasons:
Turning to Christ is foundational to our Christian faith
This key freedom of a person to change their religion is included in the UDHR
The freedom of a person to change their religion should not be taken for granted
I believe that the freedom of a person to change their religion should be included in the motion relating to Freedom of Religion.
*I am pleased to say that General Synod agreed to the amendment without debate and this freedom is included in the final statement which reads:
Motion relating to Freedom of Religion
That this General Synod calls on the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to reaffirm their commitment to religious freedom and to take all practical steps necessary to ensure that the following six freedoms are safeguarded in Australia within the constraints of the civil and criminal law generally applicable:
– freedom to manifest a religion through religious observance and practice;
– freedom to appoint people of faith to organisations run by faith communities;
– freedom to teach and uphold moral standards within faith communities;
– freedom of conscience to discriminate between right and wrong;
– freedom to teach and propagate religion; and
– freedom of a person to change their religion.