Key religious organisations and LGBTQI advocates have given evidence for and against the Morrison Government’s contentious religious discrimination bill. Source: Sydney Morning Herald.
There was significant disagreement between faith groups, legal and anti-discrimination experts and LGBTQI advocates on the potential impact of the bill, as the federal Parliament’s joint committee yesterday canvassed a range of hypothetical scenarios that could result from its passage.
The bill will confirm the right of faith schools to positively discriminate in their employment practices by hiring staff of the same religion, and will override existing state laws, such as those recently passed by the Victorian government, which seek to limit this right to roles where holding religious beliefs is an inherent requirement of the job.
Responding to a question by Liberal MP Celia Hammond about how organisations would treat an employee who was divorced, Christian Schools Australia policy director Mark Spencer said there was a possibility they would lose their job for being in conflict with the school’s ethos.
Legal experts also disagreed over whether the bill’s “statement of belief” provision would prioritise religious speech while overriding existing state and federal laws protecting against discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, disability and race.
Associate Professor Mark Fowler, from Notre Dame University’s School of Law, said the provision’s caveats set “quite stringent standards on statements that could be made” but Liam Elphick, from the Australian Discrimination Law Experts Group, told the inquiry the provision would create legal chaos in state courts and tribunals that could take years to resolve.
Christian schools defend right to discipline divorced or gay staff (By Lisa Visentin, Sydney Morning Herald)
Support for religious protection but not at expense of civil rights (The Australian)