Prime Minister Scott Morrison will personally introduce the controversial Religious Discrimination Bill in Parliament on Thursday.

The bill was promised by Morrison before the last elections in the wake of the 2017 marriage equality national vote to placate the losing side comprising the right wing and conservative Christian organisations. The draft of the bill was released on Tuesday. 

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LGBTQI advocates have slammed the new draft of the bill, which they say allows “humiliating, insulting, ridiculing and offensive conduct if that conduct is in the name of religion”.

Morrison Hails ‘Sensible And Reasonable’ Bill

Martyn Iles, managing Director, Australian Christian Lobby and Michaelia Cash, Attorney General. Images: Facebook

Morrison has claimed attorney general Michaelia Cash’s version of the bill was “sensible and reasonable”. 

“It is a religious discrimination bill, not a religious freedoms bill, and that is important in relation to it being a shield not a sword and to allow the freedoms of people to follow their faith,” Morrison is reported to have told Coalition MPs, while assuring that the legislation would be sent for a Senate inquiry. 

The Australian Christian Lobby has welcomed the Bill as “constructive and helpful”. While there is no ‘Folau clause’, the Lobby lauded other parts of the legislation including the protection for “statements of belief” that will now cover medical and teaching registration authorities. 

This could mean that health practitioners and teachers could make anti-LGBTQI statements on social media  and will not face any disciplinary action from professional bodies. 

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The Bill will also allow faith-based schools, and institutions like hospitals, and aged care facilities to only employ faith-based staff.

Bill Will Override State Anti-Discrimination Laws

For LGBTQI advocates, some of the most worrying provisions are those that seek to override anti-discrimination protections in states like Victoria and Tasmania. 

“This Bill is worse than the previous drafts insofar as the clause exempting ‘statements of belief’ from existing federal, state and territory laws is even wider than before and there is a new section potentially allowing LGBTQI people to be sacked even if state and territory laws protect them,” Just.Equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said in a statement. 

 “The Folau clause and the conscientious objection clause for health professionals may now be out of the Bill, but there’s plenty to take their place. This Bill is not about freedom for faith, it’s about legal privileges for some very harmful prejudices.”

Croome pointed out that Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination law would be the most targetted if the Bill becomes law. 

“The Federal Bill will override our Anti-Discrimination Act to allow humiliating, insulting, ridiculing and offensive conduct if that conduct is in the name of religion. It could also override the protection from discrimination our Anti-Discrimination Act gives to LGBTIQ+ staff employed by faith-based organisations,” added Croome.

Australia’s out Olympic legend Ian Thorpe on Tuesday joined hands with Equality Australia to launch a powerful campaign against the Morrison government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill.

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

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