ACT slams religious laws
The ACT Government says the Federal Government's proposed religious freedom laws would seriously threaten human rights protections.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr has signed off on a scathing submission on the latest version of the proposed religious freedom bill.
Mr Barr pointed out that the laws would elevate religious freedom to a special position above all other human rights.
The bill protects any “statements of belief” from being the subject of a complaint under any federal, state or territory anti-discrimination law. The protection extends to statements made in writing or by spoken words, including those that ridicule, humiliate or intimidate another person.
“This draft legislation is giving a priority to religion, effectively elevating that over people's rights for freedom of expression,” Mr Barr said.
“And this is, I think, quite a problematic situation where it's religious privilege, rather than freedom of religion.”
He also said the laws threaten the people’s “freedom from religion”.
Attorney-General Christian Porter has rejected most criticisms, but says further consultation will take place.
Mr Barr said that if the bill passed, the ACT would have to re-negotiate its agreement with the Catholic owners of the publicly-funded Calvary Hospital.
The ACT submission points specifically to risk that the laws would create “a new legal basis for health practitioners to conscientiously object to providing reproductive health services, including abortion”.
The laws would not allow health practitioners to deny treatments to specific individuals based on their gender or any other characteristic, however, they could allow practitioners to refuse to perform certain treatments or procedures on all people.
In fact, the bill does not protect religious people from attacks by other religious people.
For example, it would allow an employer to ridicule, humiliate or intimidate a Christian worker, as long as the employer is stating their “belief”.
By some assessments, a major effect of the bill will be to discourage employers to hire Christians.
Knowing that Christians and other people of faith are allowed to ignore workplace codes of conduct and say whatever they want, it is speculated that many will simply choose not to hire them.