Civil society groups and advocates representing women, LGBTIQ+ people, people with disability, people of colour, and workers are lodging submissions to express concerns about the proposed Religious Discrimination Act.
“This Bill privileges religious belief over other human rights – that’s fundamentally unfair. It’s important that people of faith are protected from discrimination but giving new privileges to people of faith, while overriding existing protections from discrimination for LGBTIQ people and others is unacceptable” said Anna Brown* CEO of Equality Australia.
The Bill introduces religious exemptions to Australia’s Race and Disability Discrimination Acts for the first time ever.
“Exemptions to these long-standing anti-discrimination laws are completely unacceptable. No religious belief should overwhelm the right of a person to live, work, study, and access healthcare with dignity”,
“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. This Bill is not like other anti-discrimination legislation”, concluded Brown.
Disability and appearance activist Carly Findlay* expressed her concerns about the Bill’s impact on accessing healthcare with dignity in her submission. “Unwanted prayers from strangers are not helpful. They imply I’m less than others, that Jesus loves me even if no one else does. They say I’ve committed a sin and need forgiveness” Findlay said. “And prayers haven’t helped. Medicine has helped.”
Renee Carr*, Executive Director of Fair Agenda, said “We are extremely concerned that current provisions will increase barriers people face in accessing reproductive healthcare – including contraceptives, the morning-after pill, assisted reproductive technology, and in some states, abortion care.”
Neha Madhok*, National Director of Democracy in Colour, said “The government’s Religious Discrimination Bill shows that despite the uptick of racially motivated religious violence, dangerous fringe groups like the Australian Christian Lobby are being heard over the genuine need to protect people of colour. We’re calling for a definition of religious vilification that provides real protection from Islamophobia, from verbal and physical harassment as we go about our lives”
“We want a bill that protects people of all faiths, equally. If it’s one that divides LGBTQI+ people of colour from their own religious community, it’s gone too far” Madhok concluded.
Assistant Secretary of the ACTU, Liam O’Brien^ said “Everyone has the right to a safe, healthy and respectful workplace. This Bill privileges the rights of religious organisations over workers’ right to be treated fairly and equally. Religious employers already have extensive rights to discriminate against workers on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status and pregnancy. This Bill not only retains these exemptions, but gives employers even more power to discriminate against workers on religious grounds.”
“Even though religious schools already have sufficient protections through industrial laws they have been gifted exemptions from almost every piece of anti-discrimination legislation in Australia. At the same time that the government has the ALRC examining these exemptions this legislation further entrenches them. Worse, it provides a suite of new rights to employers aimed at enabling them to publically marginalise LGBTI teachers and students” said Debra James, General Secretary, IEU Victoria Tasmania
Many groups are worried that certain religious statements will trump legal discrimination protections in existent laws, leaving people exposed.
Jessica Munday*, Secretary of Unions Tasmania said “Tasmania has the best Anti-Discrimination Act in the country which has served Tasmanians well for over two decades. The Morrison Government wants to override Tasmanian anti-discrimination law to pass legislation that will remove protections for Tasmanians to be free from discrimination at work and in other aspects of their lives. This is completely unacceptable.”
The consultation period for the bill closes at 5pm AEST 2 October 2019
*uses she/her pronouns
^uses he/him pronouns
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