The Religious Discrimination Bill Will
- allow “statements of belief” to override existing discrimination law
- allow religious organisations to refuse employment and services on the basis of religion, and
- allow health practitioners to refuse treatment or services on the basis of their religion
How the Bill could cause discrimination
The following scenarios have been provided by discrimination experts.
a doctor could refuse to treat a disabled patient who is seeking stem cell treatment.
a family in need could be deliberately placed at the bottom of a priority list for assistance with food and housing by a Christian charity on the basis the family no longer attends church.
a doctor could refuse to prescribe hormone treatments or referrals for surgical procedures for transgender people.
a disabled employee could be told by their manager that they are “marked by sin” and urge they seek faith healing. If the disabled person lodges a complaint they can be made to front a discrimination tribunal and accused of “religious discrimination”.
a primary school teacher with children of LGBTIQ+ parents in their class could post a blog on social media sharing her views that children born from LGBTIQ+ couples are an abomination. If a complaint is made the teacher could allege “religious discrimination”.
an Islamic cleric in a media interview may freely state, women who do not wear the hijab are immodest and invite male aggression, again, without any accountability.
if a student decides they are agnostic and refuses to attend morning chapel they may be expelled from their Catholic school.
a woman who works with a male manager who says that her divorce was a sin, and that women should submit to their husbands, would have no avenue for appeal under discrimination law.
a homeless person could be refused accommodation at hostel run by a religious charity because the homeless person practices a different religion.
an LGBTIQ+ teacher in a religious school who refuses to teach their class that LGBTIQ+ people are sinners could be fired by the school.
a small business owner could tell their Indigenous employee that Indigenous culture is “inspired by Satan and should be eradicated”. Again, there is no avenue for appeal under discrimination law.
the sole pharmacist in a country town would be able to refuse to sell contraception, forcing people to travel to another town, including people who are young, disabled, on limited incomes or otherwise find it hard to travel.
Who is against the bill?
The Religious Discrimination Bill has been condemned by Australian leaders and organisations
Michael Kirby, retired High Court judge
“This is an unbalanced law that will sustain nastiness and hostility. The result will be a rise in religious intolerance and also anti-religious hostility to replace the more relaxed tradition of modern Australia.”
Sally McManus, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions
“The Religious Discrimination Bill will make workplaces unsafe for many people, exposing them to hateful, damaging & discriminating behaviour. Everyone should be able to go to work, be safe and get on with their job without being exposed to this.”
Rev Peter Grayson-Weeks, co-convener, Uniting Network
“Instead of segregation by race or skin colour the Australian government is creating a system of state-sponsored segregation based on sexual orientation. It is our view that this is totally against the wisdom and teaching of Jesus Christ.”
Dr Chris Moy, the Chair of the Ethics Committee of the Australian Medical Association
“Our professional standards (say), we needed to care for patients, but we have this really basal sort of legislation which says you could walk away and not have anything to do with it. And this would have major implications, particularly in, say, a remote rural area where you might only have one doctor.”