Australian Christian Lobby: Religious Freedom Bill is ‘better than nothing’

The Australian Christian Lobby has described the Morrison government’s upcoming Religious Freedom Bill as “a better than nothing” approach.

Wendy Francis, the lobby group’s National Political Director, has described the bill which is yet to be made public as still needing some improvement.

“The Australian Christian Lobby believes that the government’s long-awaited Religious Discrimination Bill is a constructive and helpful reform, requiring some improvement,” Francis told religious focused publication Eternity News.

“The promised Bill is a valuable first step in acknowledging the importance of faith in the lives of the majority of everyday Australians and affirming the principle that religious people and the organisations they form should not be discriminated against.”

Francis listed the override of section 17 of Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act as one of the welcomed elements of the proposed legislation, alongside the provisions which will guarantee religious schools the right to hire and fire staff whose life choices to not align with the school’s statements of belief.

The ACL however will be pushing for further amendments to be made to the legislation including tackling state based laws which ban conversion therapy, stopping employers from being able to take action against employees statements made as religious expression and “the misuse of hate speech laws against religious expression.”

Equality Tasmania has voiced their concern that the proposed bill will override their state’s long-standing anti-discrimination laws which have been proclaimed the best in Australia.

Equality Tasmania spokesperson, Rodney Croome, said Tasmanian’s leaders from both sides of politics needed to defend the existing laws.

“We call on Premier Peter Gutwein, Opposition leader, Bec White, as well as Tasmania’s federal representatives from all parties, to stand up for the right of Tasmanians to make our own human rights laws.”

“Tasmania is a more tolerant and inclusive place because of our strong anti-discrimination law and it is an act of human rights vandalism for the Federal Government to seek to override this law.”

Croome said other states’ anti-bullying laws could also be weakened by the proposed override, but that Tasmania’s will be weakened most because it sets the nation’s highest standard.

The biggest percentage of complaints under the Tasmanian provision targeted by the Federal Government are from people with disability.

In recent correspondence to Liberal and Labor politicians, Disability Voices Tasmania spokesperson, Fiona Strahan, said,

“Too many people with disability experience humiliating, intimidating, insulting and offensive behaviour towards us in the name of religion. People try to heal us by casting out demons, or tell us our disability is because our parents were sinners.”

“A religious carve out from section 17(1) will mean people with disability who experience religious-based prejudice, humiliation or bullying will have no recourse. Our rights and dignity will be taken away.”

OIP Staff

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