ACL says it may withdraw support for Religious Discrimination bill

The Australian Christian Lobby has threatened to withdraw its support for the Religious Discrimination bill after the Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed to ensure protections for LGBTIQA+ students would be fast tracked.

In order to win the support of four moderate Liberals who had expressed concern about provisions in the Sex Discrimination which allow religious based schools to expel students over their sexuality, the PM has promised to fast track changes to the act.

Previously Attorney-General Michaelia Cash has asked the Law Reform Commission to look into the issue 12 months after the passage of the Religious Discrimination bill, a move which would have left LGBTIQA+ students waiting to 2023. The PM had originally promised to fix this issue within a fortnight back in 2018.

The decision however has not gone down well with the Australian Christian Lobby who have threatened to withdrawn their support.

In a statement, Wendy Francis, the National political Director of the ACL said talk of simultaneously removing the section of the Sex Discrimination Bill was extremely unhelpful.

“Government policy is not made by back room deals on a separate piece of legislation, the Sex Discrimination Act, without consultation with stakeholders, in particular the faith-based schools, about the implications of that.

“A faith-based school has the right to set a faith-based environment and discourage activity in the school that openly undermines that.

“This is much broader than the red herring of faith-based schools expelling same sex attracted children. There is no evidence that is happening and no peak body for Christian Schools support that.” Francis said.

The ACL demanded the government push forward with the bill in it’s current form, arguing that enough analysis and consultation had already occurred.

“The Australian Christian lobby calls on the government to proceed to debate and vote on the Religious Discrimination Bill, about which there has been years of consultation, without undermining the substantial protections for religious schools contained in the Sex Discrimination Act. The Australian Law Reform Commission is currently examining the Sex Discrimination Act and should be allowed to complete its work.

“The important issue of protection from religious discrimination based on religious belief and practice should not be conflated with other existing discrimination acts.

“Religious bodies have a right to protect their religious character in the same way that political parties can employ people who will protect their ethos.

Francis also suggested that Attorney-General Michaelia Cash may not be supportive of the Prime Minister’s deal making.

“Last minute reports that moderate liberals have pressured the Attorney General to include changes to the Sex Discrimination Act to get the long-awaited Religious Discrimination Bill appear conflated as they defy standard parliamentary processes and lack public backing by the Attorney.” Francis said.

The Attorney-General rarely gives interviews to the media, and often leaves comments on the legislation to Assistant Minister Senator Amanda Stoker.

Yesterday the ACL posted a video of their National Director – Field, Sandra Karlin, visiting Senator Stoker and presenting her with a petition of 40,000 signatures supporting their stance on the need for religious discrimination laws.

Senator Stoker said she was probably one of the signatories to the petition and tanked everyone who had signed it.

“Thank you to everyone of the 40,000 Australians, who through ACL, were prepared to stand up for this important and fundamental human right connected so closely to the right to think, and speak, and act, in accordance with our free will.” Senator Stoker said.

Senator Stoker continued saying the Morrison government was doing everything it could to fight for the rights of people of faith, and also people who wanted to talk about their lack of faith.

Graeme Watson

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