Freedom beyond the commons: managing the tension between faith and equality in a multicultural society

Joel Harrison, Patrick Parkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As religious traditions and equality norms increasingly collide, commentators in Australia have questioned the existence and scope of exceptions to anti-discrimination law for religious bodies. The authors argue that this presents a shifting understanding of anti-discrimination law's purpose. Rather than focusing on access or distribution, antidiscrimination law is said to centre on self-identity. When justified by this and related values, anti-discrimination law tends towards a universal application — all groups must cohere to its norms. In defending religion-based exceptions, the authors argue that this universalising fails to recognise central principles of religious liberty (principally the authority of the group) and the multicultural reality of Australia. The authors argue that more attention should be given to a social pluralist account of public life and the idea of a federation of cultures. Non-discrimination norms ought to operate in the 'commons' in which members of the community come together in a shared existence, and where access and participation rights need to be protected. Beyond the commons, however, different groups should be able to maintain their identity and different beliefs on issues such as sexual practice through, where relevant, their staffi ng,membership or service provision policies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-451
Number of pages39
JournalMonash University Law Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'Freedom beyond the commons: managing the tension between faith and equality in a multicultural society'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this