The Australian Christian Lobby has expressed concerns that the Morrison Government’s draft Religious Discrimination Bill does not go far enough in the license that it gives religious groups and people to discriminate against others.
“While on the surface the bill appears to deal with some significant issues, the devil is in the detail. Those details mean there is no robust protection for people such as Israel Folau or Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous,” ACL managing director Martyn Iles wrote to supporters this week.
“To suppress rugby players’ freedom of religious expression, Rugby Australia would merely have to say, as they did in Israel Folou’s case, that it was seeking to avoid ‘unjustifiable financial hardship’ for a sacking to be justified.”
“In fact, we are in a crazy situation where Section 8 of the bill permits Folau’s sacking. It allows medium and large corporations to discriminate against employees based on statements of belief if they claim there are significant financial implications, as Rugby Australia did.”
The Australian Christian Lobby is also concerned that the bill does not go far enough in overturning Tasmania’s landmark anti-discrimination legislation.
“Under Section 41, Julian Porteous-style cases may not be prevented. Whilst the relevant Tasmanian law prohibiting so-called offensive speech is over-ridden, someone can still pursue a discrimination case if they feel harassed or vilified by a statement of belief,” Iles said.
“There is no doubt that the consultation process, especially with faith groups, has some way to go.”
“The exposure draft of the bill serves as a platform for more constructive conversations with the Attorney-General and members of the government. We look forward to resolving these problems.”
The Government has only given until October 2 for people to lodge submissions on the bill.
LGBTQI advocates are pressing the Government to extend that date.