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Study says Australia is lagging behind in positive protections in law for religious freedom (Bigstock)

Australia is trailing much of the world in protecting ­religious freedoms, with current provisions open to contest ­because they haven’t been enshrined in law, according to an ­independent study. Source: The Australian

The study, commissioned by the Centre for Independent Studies, comes as the Government awaits a final review report from the Australian Law Reform Commission this month into proposed religious discrimination laws.

The ALRC earlier this year sparked a backlash from Catholic schools when it released a discussion paper that proposed removing exemptions from anti-discrimination laws that would undermine schools’ ability to hire staff based on their faith.

The report by the CIS, conducted by historian Elisabeth Taylor, says current religious protections in Australia are “ineffective” and contestable because they haven’t been enshrined in law.

Dr Taylor said that despite Australia ratifying the UN’s International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), “our track record in meeting these obligations trails behind much of the rest of the world”.

“The reason for this is because laws necessary to give effect to freedom of thought, conscience and religion described in article 18 of the ICCPR have not been ­implemented in Australia,” the report says. “A patchwork of laws at federal, state and territory level offers only incomplete religious protection, and this is increas­ingly susceptible to encroachment by legislation restricting the freedom without proper regard for ICCPR.”

The CIS study found that Australia’s approach to the protection of human rights prioritised anti-discrimination and approached positive protections only through exemptions to state and federal laws.

She said the ALRC proposed amendments to discrimination exemptions would have the effect of narrowing the rights of schools to “extinction”.


‘We’re falling behind on religious freedom’ (By Simon Benson, The Australian)