As the government of Australia ponders the introduction of an Australian charter or bill of rights, the Center, led by Associate Director Brett G. Scharffs, participated in a conference held 13-15 August 2009 at the Old Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, discussing “Cultural and Religious Freedom under a Bill of Rights.” The Center joined in sponsoring the conference with the University of Adelaide Research Unit for the Study of Society, Law and Religion (RUSSLR), Dr. Paul Babie, director. “RUSSLR,” notes Professor Scharffs, “is the first center or institute in Australia to study the relationship between society, law and religion – putting it at the leading edge in Australia of what is already a major research area worldwide. RUSSLR’s primary objective is directed at understanding the place and role of religion and law in contemporary society.” Other sponsors of the conference included the Group of Eight (Australian universities), Durham University, the Universities of Auckland and Otago in New Zealand, the Australasian Theological Forum Limited, the Australian Human Rights Commission, and the Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty.
Panel discussions at the conference presented perspectives of specialists from Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, and the United States, as well as “Judicial Perspectives” from a number of distinguished jurists, including the Hon. Sir Anthony Mason, AC KBE, Former Chief Justice, High Court of Australia, the Hon. Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Hon. Judge J. Clifford Wallace, Emeritus Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the Hon. Justice Grant Hammond, New Zealand Court of Appeal. The ICLRS was represented by presentations from Professor Scharffs, Director W. Cole Durham, Jr., and Senior Fellow for Comparative Law and International Policy David M. Kirkham.