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QLD Anti Discrimination Inquiry

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The Queensland Government Department of Justice and Attorney General (DJAG) has invited feedback from Queenslanders on a proposed new Anti-Discrimination Bill 2024 which will restrict the practice of religious belief and activity in the arenas of work and education, but they haven’t allowed much time to respond. They plan to push their new proposals through before we go to an election in October.   

If you care about freedom of belief and conscience, if you believe parents have the right to choose their child’s education, if you want Queensland to remain free to practice and share your faith, then you will want to participate in this campaign.   

A stated purpose of this bill is to remove key exceptions for religious bodies which allow them to hire and operate according to their faith and ethos.  

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The Queensland Government want the right to decide if a position in a Christian school requires a person who conforms to the faith of the organisation, or whether it sits outside that purview. Their new Act would prohibit faith-based schools and organisations from the right to select staff who align with their religious belief, unless it is deemed that observance of the religion is a genuine occupational requirement. A science teacher is used as an example of someone who would not be understood to have a genuine occupational requirement to be an adherent of their faith. The Queensland Government would provide a ‘non-exhaustive list’ of factors that would guide a religious school or organisation as to whether their requirements are ‘reasonable’ and ‘appropriate’. 

This entirely misses the point of Christianity which is a lived faith – we teach by word and life and example. Every subject in a school curriculum is relevant to a Christian worldview, not just chapel or religious instruction classes.  

In relation to single sex schools, under the new laws, an educational institution can require a student to be of a particular sex upon being admitted to the school, but this requirement will only apply at the time of enrolment.  

Christianity is a living faith. It is not something that can be privatised, or sectioned, excluded in our workplace and educational institutions. Christian beliefs shape our values, our character and our convictions in every area of life.  

In their discussion paper the Qld Government say they want to strike the right balance, and yet go on to state that, “in order to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, the freedom to manifest religion or belief (which includes through religious instruction, worship, observance and practice) may be subject to restriction.” 

It’s important that we let the Queensland Government and the Queensland Human Rights Commission that there is no hierarchy of human rights. All human rights have equal status.  

The Queensland government seem intent on restricting freedom of religion in our State. And yet, research over the past decade in disciplines like psychology, sociology, law, theology, political science and international relations clearly show that, across the globe, religious freedom is strongly aligned with less militarisation and conflict, higher socioeconomic status for women, improved economic outcomes and better health outcomes.

Bullet points to help make submissions
  1. The Queensland Law Reform Commission has, by its own admission chosen to limit `Discrimination on the grounds of religious belief or religious activity’, sayingThe QHRC concluded that it is necessary to limit religious freedom in this way to uphold the privacy and non-discrimination rights of staff in religious bodies”.
    It is unacceptable that Religious Institutions are effectively “required” to compromise theology that is fundamental to an orthodox interpretation of their Scripture.  This is like saying, “you can read, and even believe, the Bible but you are not allowed to live according to its teachings because its teachings are offensive”.
    When religious schools hire staff, it is essential the school is able to maintain the teachings and ethos of the school by ensuring staff demonstrate an active faith, not just a conceptual faith.  A Christian School without this provision ceases to be Christian.
  2. PART 3 (19) of the Bill requires an unreasonable “positive duty” by Institutions to eliminate discrimination.   In cases where Institutions have had their expression of faith limited under this Bill it is unreasonable to then expect the Institution to become ‘thought police’ for the State.  This Orwellian scenario is Marxist by nature and has no place in any liberal democracy.  In essence the State expects the Religious Institution to enforce a part of the Act that the Institution views as fundamentally wrong.
  3. The QHRC is empowered to conduct investigations, into any organisation to see if it complies with the Act, if it believes it is a serious matter and cannot be resolved by a mediation. Complaints can be made anonymously and on behalf of a whole group. This means that the QHRC on the basis of a spurious complaint or perhaps on its own initiative can commence investigations which will cause tremendous disruption to small organisations. 
  4. Under ‘General Exceptions (62) (1) (b) The Bill uses the term “reasonable and proportionate” when deciding situations in which Institutions may “discriminate”.  It is unreasonable to allow the Department of Justice and the Attorney General, or any officer of the State to interpret theology and decide what is “reasonable and proportionate”, yet at the same time, without a theological framework “reasonable and proportionate” is meaningless in this situation.  The Bill should allow to allow Religious Intuitions to decide what is reasonable and proportionate in all matters of theological interpretation.
  5. “The Exception for special roles in religious bodies” defines a limited number of roles deemed “special” yet omits staff of religious Institutions, such as schools.  This exception is itself discriminatory and completely misunderstands how central and “special” to the living faith of a Christian School Community its staff are.
  6. Human rights include the freedom to manifest religion or belief, either individually or in community with others, and in public or private, in worship, observance, practice and teaching (ICCPR, article 18.1). Freedom of religion has both an individual and a collective aspect, under which religious bodies ought to be free to manifest the religious beliefs of their members.  The Bill completely devalues the right of religiousschools to manifest their religion or belief.  This represents an overreach of the State into Religious Institution and the personal active faith of individuals.

Please join us in speaking Truth to power in the following two ways –  

  • Provide a written submission to the inquiry by 5pm on Friday 22 March 2024 at this email address –  [email protected]The DJAG website has more information about the consultation process.
  • Follow the prompts below to send an urgent email to the Premier, the Attorney General, the Opposition Leader and Shadow Attorney General, along with your local member.
    It will only take a couple of minutes.
    Wording has been provided but feel free to adjust as you see fit. Be concise and respectful.