On 10 December 2019, Human Rights Day, the Government released the second exposure draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill.
The proposed Religious Discrimination Bill threatens workplaces, schools and services that are safe and inclusive, and privileges individual religious beliefs over the rights of patients.
Here are the 3 key issues:
- Privileging religious expression over discrimination protections. The Bill removes discrimination protections for LGBTIQ+ people, women, people with disability, and others when people make certain statements which are discriminatory based in religion. Statements such as ‘homosexuality is sinful’, ‘women must submit to their husbands’, ‘disability can be cured by prayer’ and ‘a child is harmed by having unmarried parents’ may be protected under discrimination laws even when said by a boss, colleague, teacher, health professional or service provider. Large private sector employers and professional bodies will find it harder to enforce universal standards of appropriate conduct across their workplaces and professions.
- Privileging religious views over patient health needs. The Bill makes it harder for health sector employers and professional bodies to ensure doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, and psychologists do not refuse treatment to people on religious grounds. Australians will find it harder to access non-judgmental healthcare, such as sexual health, family planning, fertility, mental health and transgender health services, where ever they live. Professional standards, such as those that require objecting health professionals to refer patients to alternative health professionals who will treat them, may come under challenge.
- Entrenching double standards in law. Religious organisations will be allowed to discriminate against others with different beliefs or no belief, even when providing publicly funded services. People will be provided protections when they engage in religious activity that breaches local by-laws which we all have to follow. Corporations associated with religious people will be given discrimination protections, while religious schools will continue to be able to discriminate on the basis of sexuality, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy. A Freedom of Religion Commissioner will be established, while LGBTIQ+ people will remain without their own.