The Australian Christian Lobby has expressed deep reservations concerning the draft religious discrimination bill released today by Federal Attorney General, Christian Porter.
“While on the surface the bill appears to deal with some significant issues, the devil is in the detail. Those details mean there is no robust protection for people such as Israel Folau or Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous,” ACL managing director Martyn Iles said.
“To suppress rugby players’ freedom of religious expression, Rugby Australia would merely have to say, as they did in Israel Folau’s case, that it was seeking to avoid ‘unjustifiable financial hardship’ for a sacking to be justified.
“In fact, we are in a crazy situation where section 8 of the bill permits Folau’s sacking. It allows medium and large corporations to discriminate against employees based on statements of belief if they claim there are significant financial implications, as Rugby Australia did.
“In addition, ACL is concerned that under Section 41, Julian Porteous-style cases may not be prevented. Whilst the relevant Tasmanian law prohibiting so-called offensive speech is over-ridden, someone can still pursue a discrimination case if they feel harassed or vilified by a statement of belief.
“ACL is pleased that the bill is not yet a done deal and welcomes Attorney-General Christian Porter’s promise of further consultation on the government’s Religious Discrimination Bill.
“There is no doubt that the consultation process, especially with faith groups, has some way to go,” said Mr Iles, adding that this view was shared by many stakeholders.
“The exposure draft of the bill serves as a platform for more constructive conversations with the Attorney-General and members of the government.”
“We look forward to resolving these problems.”