Tuesday, 25th June 2013

Amendments to anti-discrimination legislation in Tasmania would have serious implications for freedom of speech, conscience and religion, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.

Proposed changes to the Anti-Discrimination Act 1988, which will likely be debated in the upper house tomorrow, would expand the prohibition of conduct that “offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules.”

ACL’s Tasmanian Director Mark Brown said such changes would threaten free speech and open dialogue, and increase unnecessary litigation.

“ACL certainly objects to behaviour that incites hatred or ridicules another but to open the prohibition of offence to things like religious or political belief or sexual orientation is a threat to freedom of speech,” he said.

“Who doesn’t get offended or insulted at times by others’ difference of opinion? This is part of living in a democracy,” he said.

Mr Brown also said that legislators should ensure anti-discrimination laws respect fundamental and universal human rights to freedom of thought conscience and religion.

“Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’” he said.

“In a country like Australia which prides itself on tolerance in a multicultural society, these changes would only undermine tolerance and robust political debate would be inhibited.

“In the last few months, Tasmanians have debated numerous social issues which bought out diverse opinion, much of which surely offended people. Surely the government does not expect all such offences be put before the legal system,” Mr Brown said.

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