News National Mark Latham defends Israel Folau’s right not to suffer for his hardline faith
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Mark Latham defends Israel Folau’s right not to suffer for his hardline faith

Mark Latham claims Australians are scared to declare their faith and belief for fear of reprisals. Photo: Channel Nine
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Religious Australians are frightened to speak up about their faith in case they are taken to court, belitted in public, or lose their jobs, NSW politicians say.

One Nation NSW leader Mark Latham and federal Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells addressed members of Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Mandaean faiths at a forum on religious freedom in Sydney on Saturday.

Mr Latham told the forum that the example of former Wallabies star Israel Folau made people of religious conviction think “it could happen to me too”.

Folau, a fundamentalist Christian, was sacked by Rugby Australia and Rugby NSW after a controversial Instagram post in April condemning “drunks” and “homosexuals” and warning “hell awaits” them.

“People just looked at his case and think to themselves ‘if a high profile Australian like that can be treated in that way – losing his job and copping so much public denigration when he articulated religious views away from the workplace’, well could they be next?” Mr Latham told AAP.

“I think out of that shock to the system people are starting to get more active.”

Israel Folau’s outspoken opposition to homosexuality cost him his job. Image: TND

NSW Labor MPs Guy Zangari and Hugh McDermott also attended the forum, which was hosted by the Australian Christian Alliance in Fairfield Heights.

Mr Zangari – whose electorate of Fairfield recorded less than 30 per cent of residents who were born in Australia at the 2016 census – said locals who fled persecution in other countries are also concerned.

“A lot of people in our area left persecution in other countries about religion and now they’re coming here and feeling a little bit constrained,” Mr Zangari, a practising Catholic, told AAP.

The Fairfield community “want to know that they can practice their religion freely without fear or persecution,” Mr Zangari said.

“And also that if they talk about say their scripture, whatever faith that is, that they’re not going to be hauled over the coals or brought to court as a result of them speaking about what their scriptures say.”

It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday announced the government’s Religious Discrimination Act would not be introduced until 2020, with a revised draft to be issued before the end the year.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells welcomed the bill’s delay.

“I have and have had real concerns in relation to the first bill and I am hopeful that with further consultation and engagement that we can deal with those issues,” she told the forum.

-AAP