Civil society groups representing women, LGBTIQ+ people, and people of colour have today condemned the Government’s draft Religious Discrimination Act Exposure Draft.
“Laws must apply equally to everyone – this Act enshrines religious exceptionalism by giving new privileges to people of faith, while overriding existing protections from discrimination for others.”, said Anna Brown* CEO of Equality Australia.
“These new, radical provisions go too far and hand a sword to people of faith to use their religious beliefs to attack others in our community.”
“There appears to be a specific override of Tasmanian prohibitions on conduct which ‘offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules’ other members of our community, including LGBTIQ+ people.
“We must not go backwards or remove any protections from harmful behaviour which have already been achieved – at great cost.”
“It’s really disappointing that the Government has drafted a series of special measures for religious individuals and organisations without speaking to those who could be targeted if those measures are passed”, concluded Brown.
Neha Madhok*, National Director of Democracy in Colour, “We want a bill that protects people of all faiths, equally. But if it’s one that divides LGBTQI+ people of faith from their own religious community, it’s gone too far”.
Diana Sayed*, a senior campaigner for Fair Agenda, said “No one person’s beliefs should override another person’s protection from harm. We’re very worried about the potential impact these changes could have on women’s protection from harm and access to services, including reproductive healthcare.”
*uses she/her pronouns
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Additional quotes to be attributed to anna brown:
“The Bill explicitly privileges religious beliefs over secular beliefs. In a multicultural free country like Australia – this is simply unacceptable. “It introduces a carve-out to stop employers from upholding their inclusive non-discriminatory policies when staff express negative religious beliefs about LGBTQ people outside the workplace such as on social media, except where necessary to avoid unjustifiable financial hardship’.
“But people who aren’t religious don’t have the same level of protection. Our laws need to treat all beliefs equally – regardless of whether they’re based on religion or a person’s individual moral view.”
“The Attorney-General promised that the Religious Discrimination Bill would not ‘displace’ state or territory laws, but the Bill explicitly overrides existing protections from federal, state and territory anti-discrimination laws through a new carve-out for a ‘statement of belief’.
“While a statement must not be malicious or likely to harass, vilify or incite hatred of others, the current drafting does not provide critical protections from the broad range of harms LGBTIQ+ people experience daily through bullying or online attacks.”