Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli is calling for the Morrison Government to introduce “positive” laws that protect religious freedom as a “universal human right”. Source: The Australian.
Federal Cabinet will meet today to discuss draft proposals for federal laws that would protect faith-based organisations from vexatious cases launched through state anti-discrimination tribunals.
The Australian understands Attorney-General Christian Porter’s proposals to be considered today aim to provide religious groups with exemptions from discrimination laws, which the government argues will satisfy their demands and offer protection for faith-based schools.
The proposals would ban discrimination on the basis of faith in areas such as employment, housing and the use of services.
But the Church is calling for the government to go further than an exemption-based law and take a “positive approach to recognise religious rights” that would protect schools, hospitals and charities adhering to church teachings.
“We are in favour of some (sort of) religious discrimination act but it is important that it is a positive law, one not about exemption,” Archbishop Comensoli said.
“We have signed up to a number of international covenants in terms of religious freedom as a basic human right.
“We are keen to see some way in which that might be legislated.”
The proposals to be discussed by cabinet today, with a final draft bill expected before the end of the year, would prevent claims such as the “Porteous case”.
In 2015, Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous was subject to an anti-discrimination claim under state law over an anti-same-sex marriage pamphlet that Greens candidate Martine Delaney argued had discriminated against and humiliated gay sex couples. While attempts to conciliate failed, the case never made it to the tribunal. Nevertheless, proponents of religious freedoms cite the case as a watershed.
Mr Porter is believed to have assured church groups and religious leaders that any bill would prevent a repeat of such cases. The Attorney-General is understood to have told MPs last month that making a positive right to religious freedom risked opening up a Pandora’s box of rights claims by other groups.
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