It has been revealed that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has met with 21 religious leaders to consult with them on the Government’s proposed religious freedom legislation, as LGBTQI advocates continue to ask for a seat at the table.

J-Wire reported yesterday that leaders from Australia’s Jewish, Catholic, Anglican, Uniting Church, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Greek Orthodox, Coptic, Assyrian and Melkite communities, among others, were invited to a sit-down meeting with the Prime Minister earlier this week.

“There cannot be many other countries in the world in which the head of government can have a constructive conversation over one and a half hours with a such a diverse range of faith community leaders on as sensitive a topic as religious freedom and discrimination,” Executive Council of Australian Jewry Co-CEO Peter Wertheim said, after the meeting.

“Each of us outlined what was of importance to our respective communities not only with regard to the proposed legislation but also in terms of Australia’s broader cultural attitudes with regard to religion.”

“There was a large measure of agreement in the room about many of the principles that the government is grappling with in seeking a fair and workable balance between religious freedom and competing rights and freedoms. This sends a positive message to the world about how effectively Australia operates as a multi-faith and multicultural society.”

“From the tenor of his comments and responses to our concerns, I felt reassured that the rights and freedoms of people of faith to practise and preach their beliefs, and the rights and freedoms of faith-based schools and institutions to operate in accordance with their ethos, will continue to be protected in accordance with international norms.”

Just.Equal spokesperson Rodney Croome expressed his concern that advocates for the LGBTQI had not been given the same level of access as the government continues to draft its legislation that could potentially have wide ranging ramifications for existing anti-discrimination laws in Australia, or could further entrench religious exemptions to discriminate.

“The Prime Minister has met with religious leaders to discuss their desire for more “religious freedom.” But he has not met with LGBTI community representatives to discuss the adverse impacts on us of allowing discrimination in the name of religion,” Croome said.

“Until this happens the Government is open to accusations of bias against the LGBTI community.”

Croome encouraged concerned community members to sign petitions urging the Government to consult with the LGBTI community being organised by Just.Equal and Equality Australia on their websites.

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