Flawed Religious Discrimination Bill must be fully redrafted

The flawed Religious Discrimination Bill will take away hard-fought protections for people who need them and should not be passed, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“The Religious Discrimination Bill is fundamentally flawed and piecemeal amendments are not going to solve the problem,” said Mr Graham Droppert SC, National President, ALA. “In our view, the Bill needs to be fully redrafted.

“In its current form the Bill effectively legislates bigotry, by enabling religious belief to be used as a cloak for sexism, racism, homophobia and other prejudices.”

The ALA says that if the proposed legislation becomes law it will weaken existing protections for people who rely on current discrimination laws to protect them from offensive, insulting or intimidating conduct.

“If the Bill proceeds it will override all anti-discrimination laws because it would privilege people with religious beliefs over others. The legislation prioritises the protection of religious rights over protection from discrimination due to gender, race, sexuality, disability and age,” said Mr Droppert SC.

“The Bill’s wide definition of ‘statements of belief’ means that current unlawful acts of discrimination could become lawful if based on someone’s faith. The Bill over rules all federal, state and territory anti-discrimination law making ‘statements of belief’ immune from legal consequences under those laws.

“Protecting the rights of people to legitimately hold and practise their religious beliefs is important, but this Bill does not get the balance right and needs to be re-drafted.”

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