The Australian government has introduced their Religious Discrimination Bill to Parliament. The Bill is a step backwards, threatening to wind back the rights and hard-fought protections of LGBTQIA+ people, women, people with disability and even other people of faith, by allowing people to use religion to discriminate against others.
The draft laws contain provisions that will undermine everyone’s right to live in dignity and respect. If passed, the Bill would put LGBTQIA+ people, women and people with disability at risk of intimidation and harmful and discriminatory statements, as well as compromise access to safe, inclusive workplaces and schools and judgement free-health care.
- The bill will have a chilling effect, meaning that people who experience discrimination at work, at school, or when accessing services will be less likely to call out comments that are offensive, insulting or demeaning.
- The ‘statements of belief’ provisions will mean that harmful statements that constitute discrimination today, will be protected by law. Things like a medical professional telling a person living with HIV that AIDS is a punishment from God, or a support worker telling a person with disability that their disability is caused by the devil.
- The bill also includes a new provision that will bolster the ability of religious schools to refuse to hire staff that affirm and support LGBTQIA+ people, single parents, or people who are divorced or in de-facto relationships.
People of faith must be protected from discrimination, but this Bill is unlike any other anti-discrimination law. It privileges religious beliefs over other human rights, providing protection to religious belief or activity at the expense of other rights. Rights to freedom of religion and other fundamental rights, must be protected and appropriately balanced.
The Religious Discrimination Bill pits us against each other. It gives people who hold a religious belief power over people who don’t. Our laws should protect all of us, equally – no matter who we are, whom we love, or what we believe. The rights of one group cannot come at the expense of the rights of others.
Instead of prioritising laws that create new forms of discrimination, the government must pass laws that protect us all. We know that some MPs and Senators have concerns about the Bill. We need to act now.
Together we can stand up for an inclusive Australia, free from discrimination. Email your MPs and Senators and call on them to oppose this dangerous bill.
We are working with Equality Australia and other organisations opposed to laws that would take us backwards. You can follow this link to learn more about the detrimental impacts of this Bill.