The coalition breaks the "license to discriminate" in the draft law on religious freedom News in Australia


The Coalition is finalizing the new laws on religious discrimination, but will resist the requests of faith groups and conservative parliamentarians to legislate on "positive" rights that would give them a "license to discriminate".

On Tuesday afternoon, the federal cabinet approved the proposed new anti-discrimination laws, agreeing to carry out a bill that reflects other existing anti-discrimination laws, such as those relating to age, race and disability.

But the decision not to go further could see the party room divided on the proposal, with conservatives like Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Barnaby Joyce wanting to implement stronger protections.

The attorney general, Christian Porter, has stated that the government still has some "tuning" to do on the account, but will release the legislation for consultation within the next few weeks.

"I am close to the conclusion of a bill. Some improvements are underway and I expect a bill to be published in the coming weeks, before Parliament resumes in September, "said Porter.

But he made it clear that the government will not bow to the requests made by some faith groups and a group of conservative parliamentarians to allow the government to sanction "positive" rights through an act of religious freedom.

"What we intend to offer has been rightly described by the chairman of the Anglican Public Affairs Commission Carolyn Tan today as a" shield "against discrimination and not a" sword ", said Porter.

"The laws will protect people from discrimination, but they will not give them a license to discriminate against other people."

Porter said the release of the bill would result in further consultations with parliamentarians and senators from all sides, religious groups and other interested parties, including business groups and LGBTIQ +.

Previously, Porter had told Guardian Australia that he was confident that the new laws proposed by the government would provide a "powerful way" for protecting people of faith from discrimination, suggesting that it would prevent a repetition of the high-profile Israeli dismissal.

The government hopes that the bill will be presented and taken into account by both the House and the Senate by the end of the year, where it will also be examined by a Senate inquiry.

The Anglican archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, on Tuesday added his voice to the request that the laws go beyond protection from discrimination, saying that for religions there must be the rights to "express themselves".

Davies said that an example would be a right for an Anglican school to dismiss teachers who do not "adhere to the Anglican ethic".

Speaking in Sydney at a forum on religious freedom organized by New South Wales Labor MP Tania Mihailuk and Liberal MP Damien Tudehope, Davies said it was not enough to give religions exemptions from the current anti-discrimination law, because these implicit religions were them themselves discriminatory.

"We do not want people who hold religious faith to be seen as an exception in discrimination," he told Guardian Australia.

"We must have the freedom to express our faith in a positive way and not be, so to speak, marginalized in an exemption, as if we were discriminatory and [people say]" We will let them do it ".

"We are not discriminating. We are only expressing our opinions and opinions in a completely democratic and free society."

In November last year, 34 Anglican schools in Sydney backtracked due to a controversial letter they wrote to the Federal Minister of Education, asking him to preserve a Sex Discrimination Act clause that allowed religious schools to dismiss teachers or expel students based on sexuality.

Davies and important exponents later apologized, saying that schools did not want to retain that power and would prefer to replace it with a positive right to protect ethics.

On Tuesday, he said this should be in federal legislation.

"In an Anglican school we want to make sure that people adhere to the Anglican ethics of the school. They may not necessarily be Anglicans, but I don't want them mined. I do not want them to express opinions and teach children contrary to the ethics and mission of our school.

"Australia is built on diversity of opinions, we are multicultural and multi-faith. We want freedom to really express itself in a way that people can actually understand who we are."

Scott Morrison has privately met 21 leaders of religious groups at the beginning of August, but Davies said the prime minister did not provide any indication of how far the bill would go.

"The prime minister did not engage in a positive right. But he engaged in consultation. Once the text of the bill has been published in the bill, we can therefore speak to it from there. "

"I think he will keep his papers close to his chest until he discusses them with the party room and that's fair enough," he said.

Porter made it clear that the Australian Law Reform Commission was about to investigate religious exemptions to discrimination laws, designed to ensure that existing legislative discrimination exemptions based on a person's identity were limited or removed , while protecting the right of religious institutions to conduct their business "in a manner consistent with their religious ethos".

"The ALRC survey is a completely separate process that does not intersect with the bill on religious discrimination, which focuses on protecting people from discrimination on the basis of their religious beliefs or lack thereof," said Porter.



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