Attorney-General Christian Porter has released the Morrison Government’s draft religious discrimination legislation following an election pledge to protect religious freedom. Source: ABC News.
The issue has been thrust into the spotlight with the case of controversial rugby player Israel Folau and Rugby Australia. The organisation sacked the former Wallaby and devout Christian after he quoted a Bible passage on Instagram.
Speaking at Sydney’s Great Synagogue, Mr Porter said there would be parts of the legislation which dealt with conditions employers could put on their staff.
“Someone in Mr Folau’s position might say that the rule under which they were sacked was unreasonable, indirect discrimination,” Mr Porter said. “The employer would need to argue that the rule was reasonable.
“But to do that, they would have to show the commercial damage to their organisation that was suffered by the breach.”
Then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull commissioned former Liberal MP Philip Ruddock to review protections for religious freedoms following the legalising of same-sex marriage. The recommendations from that came out late last year, as Scott Morrison made his election commitment.
Mr Porter yesterday emphasised there would be restrictions within the proposed laws.
“Importantly, and I will stress this, no statement of belief in this context is reasonable if it’s malicious or if it harasses, vilifies, incites hatred or violence or advocates for the commission of a serious criminal offence,” he said.
The federal Government will continue public consultation on the bill, which the Attorney-General said followed the standard framework for an anti-discrimination bill.
Meanwhile, The Australian reports that Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli said the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference supported a religious discrimination act in “principle”.
A spokeswoman for Sydney Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher said there had been “limited consultation” with the government but they would now “consider the implications for the Church, our wide range of services and for the Catholic faithful”.
The Australian also reports that doctors in Victoria and Queensland may still be compelled to refer a patient for an abortion under the bill if they conscientiously object to the procedure. Although the bill aims to ensure health practitioners do not have to participate in an abortion or euthanasia if they are opposed on religious grounds, the legislation would not trump state law.
Faith leaders vexed by lack of consultation (The Australian)
Doctors fear state law may veto their objections (The Australian)
Common sense means drawing line in middle (The Australian)
A bill that will fail to dampen fears on both sides of the religious freedom tussle (Sydney Morning Herald)
What are the new religious discrimination laws about? (Sydney Morning Herald)
Companies to prove financial hardship if limiting religious expression under proposed laws (Sydney Morning Herald)
New laws wouldn’t have saved Folau (News.com.au)