The bill has its fair share of critics

The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on December 13 that a bill to protect individuals against discrimination will be introduced in 2019. Discriminatory practices on basis of religious activity will not be allowed. This bill comes at a time when Australia is being rocked by claims related to LGBT and religious freedom rights. It is added the country respects the right of all religious institutions to preserve their unique religious ethos and Australian laws should mirror such values.

Australia has witnessed fierce debate concerning religious freedom during the last few years when it came to gay marriage, hiring, and confessional decisions. 20 recommendations were suggested by the above religious freedom review. It is expected the government will implement 14 of them.

The Morrison government has plans to appoint a commissioner to oversee religious freedom at the Australian Human Rights Commission. The government intends to give religious activity and belief its due protections, akin to sex or race. The administration hopes to make sure groups which reject gay marriages do not lose their charitable status. All proposals are the government’s response to an Australian religious freedom review, completed in May.

Luke Beck, an academic specializing in church and state separation, welcomed the proposal to end religious discrimination. He, however, noted that it will offer an extra source from which challengers can fire salvos at the chaplains’ programs. Meredith Doig, the Rationalist Society of Australia President, said her organization would utilize the proposed law to challenge the legality of an educational institution’s right to refuse the hiring of secular-minded chaplains.

The proposed bill has its share of critics. Many of those who have opposed the bill said it may backfire against the chaplains’ program in public schools and the Australian military. Phillip Ruddock, head of the religious freedom review, has admitted the panel found scant evidence of any kind of discrimination against religious individuals, despite PM Morrison advocating a new law as religious people seemingly feel suffocated.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has received numerous complaints related to programs linked to the placement of religious chaplains within public school premises and in the military.


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