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Acting On Conscience:
How Can We Responsibly Mix Law, Religion And Politics?



Is there a place for personal beliefs in public life? Is a Catholic health minister in a fit position to legislate on women’s issues such as the right to an abortion pill? When the prime minister invokes church leaders’ support in going to war with Iraq – and those church leaders tacitly approve this – is there a moral issue at stake? In Acting on Conscience Jesuit priest, human rights lawyer and academic Frank Brennan tackles these issues head on. He explores some of the legal, moral and ethical issues that capture the public imagination – and critically examines the figures in public life who pass judgment on them.

Issues covered include: the war in Iraq, same-sex marriage and parenting, late-term abortion , politics and the judiciary.

Through detailed analysis of examples from both Australia and the US, Brennan asks: Is there a place for personal beliefs in public life? As citizens and voters, how can we responsibly mix law, religion and politics? How can we ensure that in the future, our leaders will speak for us – but not out of turn?

Frank Brennan
Photo by Julia Charlies

Frank Brennan

Frank Brennan is a Jesuit priest, professor of law at the Australian Catholic University, and adjunct professor at the College of Law and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the Australian National University. He has written a number of books on indigenous issues and civil liberties. His most recent books are No Small Change (2015), Tampering with Asylum (2003), which compares Australia’s asylum policies with those of other first-world countries, and Acting on Conscience (2007), which looks at the place of religion in Australian politics and law. In 2009, he chaired the National Human Rights Consultation. He is an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for services to Aboriginal Australians, particularly as an advocate in the areas of law, social justice and reconciliation. Frank Brennan is Rector an Newman College at the University of Melbourne.