Advocates have major concerns as Religious Discrimination Bill emerges

The ongoing case of the Morrison Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill has made another major step today, with changes to the legislation revealed in the media.

WA Today have reported the bill, inherited by Attorney-General Michaelia Cash from now-backbencher Christian Porter, will not contain a ‘Folau Clause’ that would enshrine the right to offend via faith-based beliefs in law.

The notion had been touted by conservatives, notably the Australian Christian Lobby, as a sure thing following the consequences faced by former rugby star Israel Folau for posting anti-LGBTQ+ views to social media in 2019.

The draft bill in its current form would, according to briefing notes obtained by media, still provide exemptions for faith-based organisations to discriminate while hiring staff.

LGBTQIA+ advocacy group Just.Equal is urging dissenting Liberals, Labor and cross-benchers to vote against the legislation when it comes to the floor, raising concerns the bill would override state based anti-discrimination laws.

“We are very concerned these broad exemptions could be used to discriminate against LGBTQ+ employees under cover of an organisation’s so-called ‘religious ethos’,” Just.Equal spokesperson Brian Grieg said.

“With more states moving to prevent LGBTQ+ discrimination by faith-based organisations, the exemptions in the Religious Discrimination Bill are potentially taking the nation backwards.”

Brian Greig said that following lobbying from Just.Equal, which included a brochure mailed to all MPs and a meeting with Attorney General Michaelia Cash, the government backed off two of the extreme measures but needed to go further.

“The proposal to deny health services to LGBTI people has been dropped, as has the so-called Folau Cause which would have prevented employers taking action against demeaning conduct,” Greig continued.

“But the bill remains an unprecedented attack on discrimination protections that have helped foster greater tolerance and inclusion.

“It is unprecedented for any Federal Government to attack existing state discrimination protections for vulnerable minorities, including people with disability.”

“This bill is a license to demean and discriminate, and puts the health and wellbeing of vulnerable Australians at risk.”

“We call on Labor, the cross bench, and Liberals who oppose this kind of extremism, to vote the bill down, or at the very least, ensure it is subject to the full scrutiny of a parliamentary inquiry.

“Scott Morrison promised a bill that would prevent discrimination on the ground of religion, not promote it in the name of religion. This fight isn’t over until he fulfils that promise.”

The Greens LGBTQIA+ spokesperson Senator Janet Rice has also raised concerns about the draft, claiming most in the upper house have not seen the bill.

“Australians deserve a transparent process, not leaks out of Cabinet, especially with a bill as fraught and friendless as this one,” Senator Rice tweeted.

“It must go to a Senate inquiry for genuine scrutiny.”

“While the Greens welcome axing the Folau clause and conscientious objections, any bill that enables discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people, women, people with disabilities, minority faiths, or First Nations people is unacceptable.”

“Anti-discrimination laws should protect everyone.”

It is expected the Religious Discrimination Bill could be introduced as early as next week.

OIP Staff

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