The Institute of Public Affairs has slammed the Morrison Government’s draft religious discrimination bill saying it will invite secular courts to define "reasonable" and "good faith religious practice”. Source: The Australian.
In an attack on the legislation, expected to be tabled in parliament before Christmas, the institute’s executive director John Roskam said the proposed laws would “put judges above priests, imams and rabbis in deciding the limits of religious freedom … The proposed exemptions from the religious anti-discrimination laws do not include bodies which are solely or primarily engaged in commercial activities”.
“This fails to recognise that the manifestation of religious beliefs takes place as much in a commercial environment as in a church, synagogue, or mosque,” he said.
“The proposed bill will reverse the onus of proof by requiring a ‘large business’ to justify why their alleged discrimination against an employee of religious faith was justified.
“This is an unconscionable reversal of a centuries-old legal tradition which sits at the heart of Australia’s legal system to protect individuals’ rights against arbitrary use of government power.”
The IPA submission to the Attorney-General’s Department in response to the Government’s draft religious discrimination bill, describes it as “unlikely to achieve its stated objective of protecting Australians of faith from unfair discrimination”.
It also says under the legislation, exemptions for faith-based organisations are “too narrow to guarantee the mechanisms introduced by the draft bill will not be used as a cudgel against Australians of faith to combat theological ideas”.
The conservative think tank said state and federal governments should “reverse years of encroachment on to the freedoms of Australians by removing or limiting the reach of laws which impinge on those freedoms, which are the anti-discrimination laws themselves”.
Mr Roskam said the proposed bill was unlikely to prevent another case such as that of the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, from arising.
Mark Fowler, adjunct associate professor at the School of Law Notre Dame, also expressed concern about oversight of faith-based cases under the proposed bill. He said the legislation required judges to determine whether conduct “may reasonably be regarded as being in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings or the religion”.