In any society, anti-discrimination laws play an essential role in protecting the liberty of its citizens. They should not have to “look over their shoulder” or worry about being discriminated against for their genuinely held beliefs, be it a matter of sex, race, disability, age or religion. Australia has laws to protect its citizens against all form of discriminations based on sex, race, age or disability through – the Sex Discrimination Act, a Racial Discrimination Act, a Disability Discrimination Act and an Age Discrimination Act. Thus it needs Religious Discrimination Bill.
But beliefs based on religion were in the grey area. The Coalition last time round promised to enact laws to protect peoples’ religious beliefs. This week, introducing the Religious Discrimination Bill, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, the Liberals were fulfilling their election promise.
Introducing the bill in the parliament, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “Laws needed to protect citizens in a tolerant, multicultural, liberal democracy.
The Commonwealth has a Sex Discrimination Act, a Racial Discrimination Act, a Disability Discrimination Act and an Age Discrimination Act.
However, there is no standalone legislation to protect people of religion, or faith, against discrimination. Or indeed for those who choose not to have a faith or religion.
The introduction of this bill, the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021, will fix this.”
It has been so received by various faith communities as well.
“This bill is a protection from the few who seek to marginalise and coerce and silence people of faith because they do not share the same view of the world,” Mr Morrison said.
He further explained “A Sikh should not be discriminated against because of the turban they wear nor a Maronite because of the cross around their neck, nor a Muslim employee who keeps that prayer mat in the bottom drawer at the desk at work, nor a Hindu couple who (are) seeking to rent a property, nor as Jewish school seeking to employ someone of their faith if that faith is their preference and the publicly stated policy of their school.”
The bill recognises that religious bodies, religious schools must be free to uphold the tenets of their faith, and the ethos that makes this school, a community and is a recognition of the sacrifices parents make to educate their children in accordance with their values and beliefs, and the choices they have made for their children’s education.
Faith and freedom are inseparable. In Australia NSW and South Australia have limited or no specific protection against religious discrimination. This Bill, says the government, brings clarity and it provides confidence that Australians of faith can have confidence they will be protected from discrimination.
This Bill allows a person to make faith-based statements provided they do not incite violence, harassment, intimidation or vilify others.