Analysing conscience votes in parliament: Do churches influence the law?

Corrie Donaghey, Kathrine Galloway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Recent public debates about same-sex marriage and women's right to abortion have challenged the party divide that normally forms the foundation for parliamentary voting. Instead of a clear party line dictating the way in which members of Parliament vote, such issues tend to be regarded as 'moral' issues warranting a vote of conscience. In the sometimes-heated public debates on these issues, Christian Churches and Church-based groups are vocal in stating their case and many members of parliament likewise express their position in terms of a Church view. Others however reject the role of the Churches in these debates, arguing instead that the argument is based upon the premise that for Parliament to be truly representative, members' decision-making of the Churches have no place in determining the rights of all Australian citizens. The latter n issues of conscience should not be beholden to Church views that are not representative of the community. This paper reviews the parliamentary debates of the last 10-15 years over the use of human embryos in stem cell research to ascertain whether, and the extent to which, it could be said that Christian Churches do indeed influence Australian law. It finds that while a variety of influences - Church and otherwise - can be said to influence individual voting on issues of conscience, whether there is an institutional Church influence is not clear-cut.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-112
Number of pages29
JournalJames Cook University Law Review
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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