Sackings allowed for God's sake
The Federal Government is introducing its new religious discrimination bill to parliament.
After several years of trying to pass a bill to protect religious rights, Prime Mininster Scott Morrison says the latest version will bring “clarity” and “confidence” that “Australians of faith will be protected from discrimination”.
However, the bill does not protect people from being the subjects of discimrination by religious people and organisations.
The Prime Minister believes there is a lack of religious protection against the prevalence of “cancel culture” on campuses and in Australian corporate life.
The Government’s latest bill would protect Australians making “statements of belief” from being penalised under existing state-based discrimination laws.
It only applies if those statements do not “threaten, intimidate, harass or vilify a person or group”.
Even so, in the guise of enhancing protections against discrimination, the bill protects behaviours that would otherwise be deemed discriminatory.
It allows religious schools and organisations to discriminate in the employment and enrolment of people of a particular faith. It also allows schools to sack staff or expel students for faith-based reasons, such as being a member of LGBTQ+ communities.
In 2018, Scott Morrison promised to ban religious schools from expelling students on the basis of their sexuality, which would require removing exemptions in the federal Sex Discrimination Act that permit religious schools to expel LGBTQ+ students and sack LGBTQ+ teachers. The bill unveiled this week does not fulfill this pledge.
Attorney-General Michaelia Cash has asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to advise on the Sex Discrimination Act exemptions, but it can only report back 12 months after the Religious Discrimination Bill becomes law.
On the current timeline, religious schools might lose the right to sack LGBTQ+ staff and expel LGBTQ+ students in 2024.
Meanwhile, the Victorian Government says it will fight aspects of the federal government’s bill that would override state anti-discrimination laws.
Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes says it is a “little unclear” what the Coalition’s intentions are in regard to state-based laws, but threatened to take any action, including a High Court challenge, to defend the state’s standards.
Tasmanian shadow attorney general, Ella Haddad, has described the federal bill as “a fundamental states’ rights [issue]”.
“Our act is the strongest, in Tasmania, Tasmanians have more to lose under this federal bill than any other state,” she said.