Australia needs restoration of freedom, not religious discrimination law


Despite the Morrison government’s commitment to legislate religious freedom during the 2019 election campaign, the religious discrimination bill has just been shelved by the government.This happened after the Labor Party, and five Liberal lawmakers decided to vote. Abolition of all religious exemptions For faith-based educational institutions related to students. The Prime Minister then decided that Congress had too little time to resolve these issues before the elections scheduled for May 2022.

The Morrison government Religious discrimination bill “We guarantee that Australians are protected from discrimination based on religious beliefs and activities, just as they are protected from discrimination based on age, gender, race and disability.”

Therefore, the bill fits into the familiar non-discrimination architecture and does not create a positive right to religious freedom. Once adopted, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs or activities in certain areas of public life.

If enacted, the bill would have given people affected by religious discrimination Right to complain Submitted to the Commission on Human Rights as an alternative to institutions established under state and quasi-state law. The committee then evaluates the complaint and attempts a settlement between the parties. If the complaint is not resolved successfully, the individual can apply to the federal court or the federal circuit court.

The proposed law doesn’t really change much. With the exception of New South Wales (NSW) and South Australia, discrimination based on religious beliefs is already banned.

However, the government misinterpreted this argument as including the right to discriminate on the grounds of religious beliefs.

Epoch Times Photo
On Monday, March 30, 2020, a statue of Our Lady Mary and Jesus can be seen in the middle of an empty highway as part of a precautionary measure against an ongoing coronavirus pandemic in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo / Hussein Malla)

Ironically, the current bill not only protects people from discrimination based on religious beliefs, but also introduces new rights to non-believers, gay people and transgender minorities.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s watered-down bill means that some schools based on faith with their own religious spirit may be accused of discrimination in the future.

Nevertheless, the bill failed because the sexism law proposed amendments to remove the current exemptions from the sexism law from faith-based schools. The removal of the exemption will force these schools to accept students regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

These fixes According to law professor Patrick Parkinson“Mainly targeted at Christian schools and other religious organizations.” But, as he explains, “they are also religiously devout refugees and immigrants from ethnic minorities.” You can send a chilling message to most of them from countries with conservative religious values. “

Religious school Play an important role To promote “the survival and continued development of the cultural, religious and social identities of religious minorities”. They can support minorities by enjoying religious culture, act as an active means of protection, and allow religious minorities to participate in decisions that affect these communities.

Therefore, based on their particular religious beliefs, creation by minority groups in their own schools should be encouraged and endorsed. Such schools naturally expect students to adhere to the school’s basic principles and values.

It is understood that cases essential to religious freedom necessarily include the right to freedom of association. Freedom of association plays an important role in promoting democratic pluralism and personal enrichment by supporting cultural diversity and promoting the public interest.

Yet, like other organizations, including political parties and government agencies, the law must ensure that faith-based schools have the freedom to operate in a way that is consistent with their core values ​​and beliefs. ..

Indeed, if the exemption is removed from the sexism law, there is no compelling reason to exist in religious schools.

Governments that support the freedom of association of faith-based schools directly support the realization of a more diverse and tolerant society.

As Kathleen Brady pointed out (pdf), “Autonomous religious groups and other voluntary groups play an important role as a place for the withdrawal of losers in the democratic political process, thereby maintaining the stability of the main political system. It helps. “

The bill represents another unsuccessful attempt by the Morrison government to allow religious groups to maintain their identity and spirit while prohibiting discrimination against religious people in public life.

Epoch Times Photo
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke to the media to announce sanctions against top Russian officials after invading eastern Ukraine at a press conference in Sydney, Australia on February 23, 2022. ..

As a result, during his nearly four-year term as prime minister, Morrison was unable to achieve anything in terms of protecting religious freedom. Instead, that failure may give ammunition to those who want to reduce their religious freedom by removing the current exemption from religious schools.

As mentioned above, under the proposed law, religious groups are “exempt” from discrimination law. However, the legal scholar Rocco Roiacono, who wrote for the Epoch Times, criticizes the government for addressing this issue in terms of discrimination rather than fundamental freedom.

As he points out, “No reform should use the word of discrimination, but Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on international human rights obligations to protect religious freedom, in particular. Australia should be placed in line with it. Correspondingly, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

We sincerely agree. In fact, the Prime Minister’s government should shift the debate from the false idea of ​​”discrimination” to a broader, less fragmented debate about the restoration of basic freedoms.

The Australian government needs to protect not only religious freedom, but also freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of association, and the right to peaceful assembly. This may include the enactment of a federal “Restoration of Liberty Act”. This restores all these fundamental freedoms and does not imply that religious freedom is an inferior or secondary right of citizens.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

August Zimmermann


August Zimmermann is a professor and director of legal affairs at the Sheridan Institute for Higher Education in Perth. He was also President of the Western Australia (WA) Law Theory Association and was a member of the WA’s Law Amendment Committee from 2012 to 2017. Zimmermann is an Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame, Australia, COVID-19 Restriction and Mandatory Vaccination — Legal Perspective (Connor Court).

Gabriel Moens


Gabriël A. MoensAM is an emeritus professor at the University of Queensland and vice president and dean of Murdoch University. In 2003, Mornes was awarded the Australian Centennial Medal by the Prime Minister for her service to education. He has taught extensively in Australia, Asia, Europe, and the United States. Moens recently published two novels, “ATwisted Choice” (Boolarong Press, 2020) and “The Coincidence” (Connor Court Publishing, 2021).

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