"Mr Santow pointed to several provisions in the bill the Human Rights Commission has taken issue with, which he added were “unique, even radical”. He noted that there was nothing like these provisions in Australian, or international, law.
For one, under the provisions, corporations can claim they were discriminated against based on associations. Mr Santow said that by claiming this, it is inconsistent with laws both national and international, but would also be inconsistent with logic and common sense “to suggest a corporation’s feelings have been hurt”.
“It’s axiomatic that human rights are for humans,” Mr Santow said. “If you need to be persuaded on this, just remember human rights exist to protect quintessentially human qualities, especially human qualities. And yet, the bill would allow some corporations to claim that they suffered from religious discrimination.”
The bill also allows religious bodies – including schools, charities and providers – to be exempt from religious discrimination law. As such, they are permitted [to] be discriminatory if it is in “good faith and in accordance with religious doctrines”. For example, a teacher of faith at a religious childcare centre can discriminate against a single mother.
“It undercuts protections against religious discrimination, particularly in sections such as employment and the provisions of goods and services. In other words, a significant portion of the bill isn’t about prohibiting religious discrimination, it does something that is the exact opposite of that,” Mr Santow said, adding that the bill would give “license” to certain parties to engage in discriminatory conduct based on their beliefs."
"In its submission, the Uniting Church in Australia echoed the concerns of legal experts, saying the redrafted version does not "get the balance right".
"To be a welcoming, inclusive, multi-faith and multi-cultural society, it is important that people are able to freely practice religion without fear," Uniting Church president Dr Deidre Palmer told a forum in Sydney last week.
"But privileging statements of religious belief at the expense of other people's dignity and wellbeing is not something we support. Christians in Australia are not persecuted. In Australia, churches aren't victims. To cultivate some kind of victim status is disingenuous.""
The ‘Bad Faith’ Religious Discrimination Bill Must Be Blocked
1.The Religious Discrimination Bill will still make it easier to make comments that ‘offend, humiliate, intimidate, insult or ridicule’ minorities
"Overall, clause 42 will still encourage degrading and demeaning comments about women, LGBTI people, single parents, people in de facto relationships, divorced people, people with disability, and even people from minority faiths,[vii] in all areas of public life, from workplaces to schools and universities, health care, aged care and other community services, to cafes, restaurants and even shops."
2. The Religious Discrimination Bill will still make it easier for health practitioners to refuse to serve minorities
"The net effect is that GPs and pharmacists will be empowered to:
Refuse to provide reproductive health services, even where this disproportionately affects women
Refuse to provide PEP and/or PrEP, even there this disproportionately affects gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, and
Refuse to provide hormone therapy (including puberty blockers), even where this disproportionately affects trans and gender diverse people.
Overall, clauses 8(6) and (7) will still encourage practitioners to refuse to provide vital health care services to some of the most vulnerable members of the Australian community."
3. The Religious Discrimination Bill will still make it easier for religious bodies to discriminate against others
"This second test is entirely subjective. A religious body is only required to demonstrate that one other person considers their discrimination is in accordance with their faith. They don’t even have to agree with the discrimination itself! This hurdle is so easy to clear that it is almost impossible to imagine any scenario where a court or tribunal will disallow religious discrimination by these organisations.
Which is particularly devastating because the Second Exposure Draft also expands the types of organisations that can take advantage of these privileges.
Clauses 32(8) and (10) allow religious hospitals, aged care services and accommodation providers to discriminate in employment on the ground of religion. And clauses 33(2) and (4) permit religious camps and conference sites to discriminate in who they provide services to (even where these are facilities run on a commercial basis and otherwise open to the public).
As I have written previously, these religious exceptions will mean that:
A professor can be denied a job because they are Jewish.
A doctor can be refused employment at a hospital because they are Muslim.
A school student can be expelled because they are atheist.
A homeless person can miss out on a bed in a shelter because they are Hindu.
A charity worker can be rejected for promotion because they are Buddhist.
An aged care employee can lose shifts because they are agnostic.
Overall, clause 11 (and related clauses) will fundamentally divide Australia, by empowering religious organisations to discriminate both in employment, and in who they provide services to, on the grounds of religion. And they will be able to do so while using taxpayers’ money. Your money. My money, Our money."
4. The Religious Discrimination Bill will still make it more difficult for big business to promote diversity and inclusion
"But Attorney-General Porter has also included a new clause 8(4), which makes things much worse again – by preventing qualifying bodies (like legal admission or medical registration bodies) from taking into account degrading or demeaning public comments which applicants may have made ‘unless compliance with the rule by the person is an essential requirement of the profession, trade or occupation’.
Previously, these bodies may have denied admission or registration on the basis that the applicant was not a ‘fit and proper person’ – instead, homophobes, biphobes and transphobes will be encouraged to discriminate with little or no professional consequences.
"Perhaps the most frustrating part of this debate is that a genuine Religious Discrimination Bill, one that protected people of faith and no faith against discrimination on the basis of who they are, would have been a welcome development.
If the Government had prepared the Religious Discrimination Bill in good faith, it would have been met with substantial community goodwill. Instead, they listened to religious fundamentalists, and have now released two slightly different versions of legislation containing the same fundamental flaw – it increases discrimination rather than reducing it.
Significantly, the victims of the Government’s Bill will not only be women, LGBTI people, single parents, people in de facto relationships, divorced people, and people with disability. People from minority faiths, atheists and agnostics all stand to lose under Attorney-General Porter’s, and Prime Minister Morrison’s, disingenuous and disastrous Second Exposure Draft ‘Religious Freedom’ Bills.
Anti-discrimination legislation should reduce discrimination, not increase it. It should unite us, rather than divide us. The Religious Discrimination Bill fails on those most fundamental criteria. It is a bad faith Bill, and the only possible good outcome from here would be for it to be rejected in its entirety."
6. Take Action
"One of my main objectives for the blog this year is to include practical information on as many posts as possible about actions readers can take. In this instance, there are at least three things you can do:
I. Write a submission on the Second Exposure Draft Bills
Note: Equality for Celebrants The Second Exposure Draft ‘Religious Freedom’ Bills are open for public consultation Closed Friday 31 January 2020.
However, theset arguments below can be made to MPs and Senators under Action 2)
"You don’t have to be a lawyer to make a submission, nor do you need to comment on all of the Bills’ many problems. Instead, you can simply describe your general concerns about the proposed legislation, as well as any specific fears about its impact on you and your community. Some suggested points include:
All Australians deserve to be protected against discrimination.
This includes people of faith, and no faith. But it must also include women, LGBTI people, single parents, people in de facto relationships, divorced people, people with disability and others.
Unfortunately, the Second Exposure Draft Religious Freedom Bill will increase discrimination against many groups, including people from minority faiths, rather than reduce it.
It will encourage people to make ‘statements of belief’ that degrade and demean others just because of who they are, in workplaces, schools and universities, health care, aged care and community services, cafes, restaurants, shops and other public places.
It will encourage doctors, pharmacists and other health practitioners to refuse to provide vital health services to vulnerable Australians.
It will encourage religious organisations to discriminate against people on the basis of their faith, in schools and universities, hospitals, aged care and other community services, even where they are delivering essential public services using public funding.
The Government should scrap the current version of the Religious Discrimination Bill, and prepare a new Bill that reduces discrimination rather than increasing it.
If the Government fails to do so, the Parliament must reject the Second Exposure Draft Religious Discrimination Bill, and associated ‘Religious Freedom’ Bills.
2. Write to MPs and Senators expressing your concerns
While submissions about the Exposure Draft Bills are valuable, it is essential you also convey your concerns directly to your elected representatives.
It is especially important to write to the following:
ALP MPs and Senator
Greens MP and Senators
Centre Alliance Senators (if you’re in South Australia)
Senator Jacqui Lambie (if you’re in Tasmania), and
Liberate moderate/gay and lesbian MPs (including Trent Zimmerman, Trevor Evans, Tim Wilson, Angie Bell, Warren Entsch, Senator Dean Smith).
PFLAG Australia has made this process easy, using the website Equality, Not Discrimination.
You can also access a range of materials from Equality Australia here, including a submission-writing toolkit.
Attend a public rally against the Bills
For those who prefer their activism to be on the streets, there will also be a number of public rallies around the country in coming weeks, including:
Sydney: Saturday 8 February at 1pm, Sydney Town Hall
Melbourne: Sunday 9 February at 1pm, State Library of Victoria
Brisbane: Saturday 1 February at 5pm, King George Square, and
Perth: Saturday 8 February at 1pm, Forrest Chase
The bad faith Religious Discrimination Bill, and the two other proposed ‘Religious Freedom’ Bills, can be blocked, but only if we all take action together."
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Advocates welcome Labor’s consultation over Religious Discrimination Bill