Michael Kirby leads new campaign against Religious Discrimination Bill

Former Justice of Australia’s High Court Michael Kirby has spoken up against the government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill as part of a new campaign.

An alliance of free-thought organisations – the Athiest Foundation of Australia, the Rationalist Society of Australia and a number of state-based athiest organisations – have come together to call for a national charter of human rights with the #DontDivideUs campaign.

Speaking as a patron of the Rationalist Society of Australia, Kirby says that all Australians – whether they practice a religion, or not – could be worse off on the grounds of religious belief under the proposed legislation.

“This is not a bill that protects Australians from discrimination on religious grounds,” Kirby said.

“Instead, it actively facilitates intolerance and will work to divide rather than unite Australians.”

“The government should heed the chorus of opposition to this law and abandon this ill-considered measure.”

President of the Rationalist Society, Dr Meredith Doig, adds that the problem with the bill is that “it will divide the community on religious grounds, instead of bringing us together in the spirit of Australia’s tradtional live and let live tolerance.”

“This is not an anti-discrimination bill; it is a bill which actively enables discrimination on the basis of religion.”

“Our groups represent the views of millions of Australians who do not identify as religious – thirty percent of the population ticked the ‘No Religion’ in the last census, more than any single religious group.”

We intend to invest resources to mobilise our membership and the wider Australian community by raising awareness about the dangerous and far-reaching consequences of this Bill.

“When you look at the real-world impact of these laws, it’s quite extraordinary – it would result in all sorts of irrational outcomes such as women being denied contraception and people with disability being denied stem cell treatment.”

“The campaign website lists a series of real-world impacts of the bill which also include children being blocked from attending early learning centres if their parents don’t attend church.”

“This is not the sort of Australia we want to live in. Religion can be a divisive issue at the best of times, but we should ‘live and let live’, not turn every religious debate into a court case,” Dr Doig said.

“You only have to look at the reaction of the community so far to see that this is a divisive bill and it should not be supported.”

“The separation between church and state is one of the most important features of our system of government in Australia and this bill compromises that principle.

“These laws will pit Australian against Australian and divide us just when we need to pull together to face unprecedented national crises. This bill is unnecessary, unwelcome and divisive, and our law makers should reject it outright.”

The campaign follows a number of calls from LGBTIQ+ advocacy organisations across the country to stand against the bill, including a push from just.equal urging Labor leaders to speak out against the legislation, and concerns highlighted by Equality Australia about the scope of the bill.

Submissions to the consultation closed on January 31st. The Attorney General is expected to brief Coalition backbenchers about the bill in the coming weeks.

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