There are concerns that religious organisations are being supplied with inside information on the Government’s planned legislation covering so-called “religious discrimination” and freedom of religion after Christian groups leaked plans to introduce a new Religious Freedom Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Family Voice Australia emailed its members today, with the group’s national director Charles Newington revealing the plans to supporters.
“Three pieces of legislation are to be introduced: a Religious Discrimination Bill; a Religious Discrimination (Consequential Amendments Bill) which will amend other Commonwealth legislation to ensure consistency with the Religious Discrimination Bill; [and a] Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Freedom of Religion) Bill which includes the appointment of a Religious Freedom Commissioner,” he wrote.
Newington told his supporters that the government’s plans did not go far enough.
“The bottom line is that the above legislation will not provide comprehensive protection for all areas of religious freedom,” he wrote earlier today.
Family Voice Australia want the government to go even further by enshrining legal protection for “faith-based schools and other faith-based institutions such as charities; parents and children, who are concerned about teachings at school which contradict faith principles; [and] employees who wish to express faith-based views in the workplace or in public.”
“Religious freedom must be recognised as a positive and inalienable right, which existed long before the formation of governments,” Newington wrote to his supporters, urging to lobby their parliamentarians.
“None of the above essential protections are in the legislation, according to the best information we have.”
The first two bills were already on the radar of LGBTQI rights advocates, however the third, which would establish a new religion commissioner at the Human Rights Commission, was news to them.
Just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome told the Star Observer he was concerned that religious groups were being given an inside track when it came to the government’s plans for this legislation.
“I am concerned that a conservative religious group appears to know what is in the Government’s proposed legislation before consultation with the LGBTI community has even begun,” Croome said this afternoon.
“I call on the Government to be honest and open with us about its legislation, and to be so immediately if it wants to maintain any semblance of trust and good faith.”
“I am also deeply concerned by what these religious groups are saying is a ‘religious freedom’ bill over and above religious discrimination legislation.”
“This has the potential to diminish existing protections for LGBTI people, particularly in states with strong protections like Tasmania.”
“LGBTI lobby groups must apply more pressure now to ensure the Coalition and Labor don’t go down the path of weakening discrimination protections in the name of ‘religious freedom’.”
Croome also said it would be unfair for religious people to have their own dedicated commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission when LGBTQI people did not.
“I am also concerned about plans to appoint a religious freedom commissioner to the Australian Human Rights Commission because their job would basically be to boost a religious freedom narrative that is anti-LGBTI to its very core,” Croome said.
“At the very least there also needs to be an LGBTI human rights commissioner to provide our rights with an advocate of equal authority.”