October 2019: read our submission to the Attorney-General on the Religious Discrimination bill here.
In late August 2019, the federal government released an exposure draft of its Religious Discrimination bill. Soon after, on 4 September, the RSA participated in a consultative session on the bill with Attorney-General Christian Porter.
The RSA is not opposed to a law that acts as a shield against discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, but does not support a law that may be used as a sword to impose religious belief or to punish those who abandon or change their religion.
Our key messages were:
- we welcome the addition to all federal anti-discrimination laws the positive recognition of the indivisibility and universality of all human rights, and the principle that every person is free and equal in dignity and rights; and
- the inclusion of those who do not subscribe to religious belief (including atheists and agnostics) by defining “religious belief or activity” to include “not holding a religious belief”, and
- the recognition in clause 20 that citizens have a right to expect the provision of goods and services free from religious discrimination.
However, the bill does not simply offer a shield against discrimination; it equips religious bodies and religionists with a positive sword that elevates their beliefs and their actions beyond the beliefs and actions of others:
- it gives practically free rein to religious bodies to act as they please
- it protects expressions of religious belief but not other deeply felt moral expressions
- it places a greater value on personal religious beliefs over the duty of professionals to provide lawful healthcare services
- it overrides all other federal, state and territory anti-discrimination laws, elevating religious belief above all else.
See here for our detailed analysis and what we wrote to MPs and Senators.
Click here to view our submission to the Ruddock Inquiry into Religious Freedom.
Click here to view our Fairfax opinion piece calling for an end to religious privilege, power and prejudice: 2018: a year that draws a line against prejudice, privilege and power