Australians support religious freedom protections for individuals but less for institutions such as schools or hospitals run by religious organisations, a new report has found. Source: The Age.
The findings do not “bode well for the prospect of any robust protection of religious freedom in this country,” says the Centre for Independent Studies report, which is being released as the Morrison Government announced it has delayed its religious discrimination bill until 2020.
“This is because religious freedom depends, in part, on the preservation of distinctive religious institutions and communities,” the report says.
“To maintain their distinctiveness, such institutions and communities need to have the freedom to select their members and employees on religiously-grounded criteria.
“Without this freedom being protected in some way from the increasing reach of anti-discrimination law, these institutions and communities will not be able to fulfil their roles and social functions.”
The CIS commissioned a survey of 1072 Australians and found that 78 per cent agreed that respecting religious traditions and beliefs should be an important part of a multicultural society.
It also found that 56 per cent believe people should not be allowed to ridicule the religious views of others, while 54 per cent believe religious perspectives should be permitted in public debates – even when others find those views offensive.
They held these views even though 52 per cent believed that religion is a divisive rather than uniting force in Australia.
Despite this 64 per cent of Australians do not think organisations should be allowed to refuse to employ someone on religious grounds.
According to one of the report’s authors, Monica Wilkie, this could cast light one why the Government is finding such political resistance to its bill, which would not extend protections to hire and fire on religious grounds to hire and fire staff on the basis of religious to belief to those religious organisations that engage primarily in “commercial activities”.
Ms Wilkie said she believed Australians misunderstood how placing such limitations on church organisations would eventually have a negative impact on individual religious freedom.