Religious freedom bill debated at National Press Club

Moderator Sabra Lane (centre) with religious freedom debate panellists Martin Iles (left) and Fiona Patten (right) at National Press Club yesterday (ABC News)

The heads of the Australian Christian Lobby and National Secular Lobby met in Canberra yesterday to debate the Morrison Government’s proposed religious discrimination laws. Source: SBS News.

Australian Christian Lobby managing director Martyn Iles said there is a growing need to protect religious freedoms, strongly supporting the measures being put forward.

“I see a rising trend of intolerance and I see this as genuinely helpful,” he told the National Press Club.

“It isn’t a licence for bigotry that simply betrays the fact that we are now calling bigotry, anything we don’t like. And in this case it is religion, this is not bigotry, this is a very confined and narrow exception, on what you can and cannot say.”

Submissions on the draft laws closed last Wednesday, and Attorney-General Christian Porter has told SBS News "issues raised" during this consultation period were being reviewed.

“We will be working through all … the submissions in detail and as swiftly as possible over the coming weeks,” he said.

“This bill seeks to balance those views and that balancing process will continue as we consider the submissions in full.”

Stakeholders are divided over the bill, with some concerned the legislation gives too much power to protecting religious expression and others believing it does not go far enough.

Mr Iles said fears the protection of statements of belief would lead to a "licence for bigotry" were unfounded.

"There are people out there right now who are told they cannot at all express ... their religious beliefs in the workplace. There is an anti-religious element here and that’s why this is a helpful bill.”

But for the National Secular Lobby's Fiona Patten, who is also a Victorian crossbench MP, this concern remains a point of contention.

“I believe we should protect against discrimination on the basis of religious belief,” she said.

“However, the Religious Discrimination Bill does not foster tolerance, it doesn’t foster mutual respect. In fact, it does the opposite.”

FULL STORY

Religious Discrimination Bill debated as the measure splits public opinion (SBS News)

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