Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that his push for religious freedom protections is because there is “no guarantee” they won’t come under threat.
Morrison went on Sky News to discuss how he proposes to address the apparently very pressing concern of religious freedom in Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Morrison said that religious schools’ right to hire and fire employees along religious lines should be upheld – which would include firing LGBTI staff simply because of their relationships.
Last year, a Perth school fired a teacher for being gay which has since brought religious schools’ ability to discriminate based on sexuality or gender identity into question in Western Australia.
“Why should you be denied a directorship or a partnership in a law firm or accountancy firm just because you happen to have expressed on Facebook or somewhere a particular religious belief?” Morrison said.
“It shouldn’t happen in this country. Now I’m not saying it is, necessarily. People say, ‘Oh well, if there’s not this great problem, why do you need to do it?’
“Can they guarantee me it won’t happen in the future?” he asked.
“I’ve seen where this issue has gone over the last ten years. And issues of freedom of speech, I’ve seen where they’ve gone over the last ten years. I’m not quite sure I’m pleased with the trajectory.
“So there’s nothing wrong with a bit of preventative regulation and legislation to ensure your religious freedom in this country. I mean, what’s more fundamental than that?”
Advocates have already said they will lobby the Senate to block any push Morrison makes on religious freedoms, saying they will fight to “oppose any new law that waters down existing discrimination protections.”
“There is no threat to religious freedom so we fear the real purpose of any new law will be to take existing discrimination protections away from LGBTI Australians,” said just.equal spokesperson, Rodney Croome.
Sky host Paul Murray pushed back on Morrison, asking him if overzealous religious freedom protection legislation might enable “the extremes of any faith” and allow people to exercise “the worst parts of their faith”.
In response, Morrison said religious beliefs should be unimpeded unless they “contravene national laws,” but it’s as yet unclear how this would interact with existing anti-discrimination legislation.
Like predecessor Malcolm Turnbull, Morrison is delaying the long-held release of Philip Ruddock’s review of religious freedoms which was commissioned following the passage of marriage equality.