Australia’s bishops have called on Attorney-General Christian Porter to extend wider-ranging protections for religious people and organisations in the Morrison Government’s proposed religious freedom legislation. Source: The Australian.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference described the second draft of the proposed religious discrimination bill as an improvement, but said more changes were needed.
In its submission to the Government responding to the second exposure draft of the proposed legislation, the conference said religious people who were employed by small business or government would not be as well protected as those working for big companies.
“The ACBC reiterates its objection to permitting religious discrimination so as to avoid ‘unjustifiable financial hardship’ to employers, which results in religious freedom being not a universal human right but something which depends on where a person works,” the submission said.
“It also encourages secondary boycotts, sponsorship withdrawals and similar actions that would enliven the ‘unjustifiable financial hardship’ carve-out.
“This draft of the bill maintains the differing levels of protection for employees of large and small companies, and employees of government agencies are excluded from these religious freedom rights altogether.
“This is an inappropriate way to recognise a universal human right, because such rights should not be dependent on external factors.”
The submission also calls for stronger federal protection for healthcare workers and institutions to conscientiously object to medical procedures.
“This is particularly important where state or territory laws do not recognise this aspect of a universal human right,” it said. “Catholic healthcare agencies decline to provide some particular services because of their religious ethos, but where services are offered they serve all people equally.”
It also opposed the exemption-based model for allowing religious hospitals, aged-care facilities and accommodation providers to hire according to their faith.
“We would prefer that this was not achieved by way of an exception,” the submission said. “Exceptions give the impression religious freedom rights are somehow subordinate to other concerns.”
Christian schools, social and legal groups also want further changes to Mr Porter’s religious freedom legislation, with the Government expected to finalise it by March.
Religious discrimination bill not fair, say Catholic bishops (The Australian)