Freedom is a passionate subject for many. Jesus Himself came to free us from the bondage of sin. Of late, the freedom to choose to be vaccinated or not is a hot topic. There have certainly been some lively debates and discussions about religious freedom in recent years.
Australians were promised religious freedoms would remain, even after the definition of marriage was changed from the traditional Biblical meaning.
Four years later, the Morrison Government is finally tabling the Religious Discrimination Bill in Federal Parliament. We’ve waited a long time to see how they plan to protect our religious freedoms.
Federal Attorney General, Michaelia Cash, joined us for this 20Twenty conversation, to explain what the bill means and how it will be implemented.
Minister Cash says that the bill is a mandate the government received from the Australian people. The commitment to religious freedom was taken to the last election, and the government is now delivering on that commitment.
It is a standalone piece of legislation to protect people of faith against discrimination.
“We know that religious protection is an important issue for so many Australians,” Minister Cash says. “This bill is fulfillment of the commitment made to the people to protect religious freedom and ensures free speech and respectful discussion can continue.”
The controversial so called ‘Folau’ clause though, has been removed. But Minister Cash says she worked very closely with religious leaders to get this bill right. As it relates to employer conduct rules, that clause has been removed on the basis that existing safeguards protect employees from discrimination.
“The bill does however return the statement of belief provision,” says the Minister. “It ensures that people can’t be persecuted for moderately expressing a reasonable opinion. We have kept the ability for a person of faith to make a statement.”
The bill draws a very clear line against harassment and vilification or intimidation of anyone, and it also protects people who don’t have faith. The bill ensures that genuine and sincerely held religious views can be expressed without legal repercussions.
“The protection applies to statements of religious beliefs,” the Minister continues. “They need to be made in good faith. The provision applies to my statement of belief, if it is expressed in good faith and is not malicious.”
A very important part of this bill is the ability of religious schools to maintain their ethos.
The bill recognizes that religious schools must be free to uphold the beliefs that make their school a community.
A religious education institution will not contravene territory law, if the religious body has given preference in good faith to persons who hold or engage in a particular religious belief or activity in employment matters.
“It is about protection from religious discrimination,” says Minister Cash. “We’re ensuring that people who have faith are protected from being discriminated against. In terms of the statement of belief provision, that is for all of us.”
Anyone will be able to make a simple statement of belief in good faith. And that won’t be discrimination under any Australian anti-discrimination law.
Minister Cash would like to see a bipartisan approach to delivering on this bill. “Australians should not be discriminated against because of their religion, or lack thereof, as they go about their everyday lives.”
“This is the fundamental principle that we seek to address in our religious discrimination bill. And I would like to see that made into law.”
To listen to the rest of Michaela’s conversation with Neil, click below.
Other Views on the Bill
Hear what Riccardo Bosi, leader of the Australian One Party have to say about the Bill:
Hear Greg Bondar of Family Voice Australia’s view: