This article considers the relationship between Christianity and the law in Australia beginning with the arrival of the First Fleet and the declaration of the Swan River Colony. It examines in some detail the influence of the Western legal tradition and of Christianity on the jurisprudence relating to one elemental aspect of Western society: marriage. It considers the make-up of contemporary Australia, contemporary attitudes to religion and the relationship between law and religion in Australia. The article concludes that the once close relationship between law and religion may be better described today not as a trial separation but as an acrimonious divorce. The article argues that conflict between Christianity and the law is increasing to the extent that there is a need for law reform to provide greater protection of religious freedom.

At the time this article was written the legislative protection of religious freedom remained in a state of flux. Following the redefinition of marriage on 15 November 2018, a review into religious freedom, the Ruddock Review, has taken place but this review has not been publicly released. Instead, the initial leaks of its recommendations to the press have been selective, mischievous and manipulative. Despite the evidence presented in this article of a need for a more adequate legislative framework for the protection of religious freedom, the response to the recommendations of the Ruddock Review to date can only cause scepticism as to the likelihood that any such framework is likely to be introduced in this county in the near future.


Australia, law, religion, Christianity, religious freedom, legislative protection


Permission granted by The Western Australian Jurist for use on ResearchOnline@ND.

© The Western Australian Jurist and contributors (https://www.murdoch.edu.au/School-of- Law/Western-Australian-Legal-Theory-Association/The-Western-Australian- Jurist/Publications/ ).

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