Explained: What is Australia’s controversial religious discrimination bill?

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On Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison introduced a controversial piece of anti-discrimination legislation called the “Religious Discrimination Bill” in the lower house of parliament.

The bill, which is the third and final draft in its current form, aims to end discrimination on the basis of religious belief or activities.

The Religious Discrimination Bill, and related legislation—including the Religious Discrimination (Consequent Amendment) Bill 2021 and the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2021—will ensure that Australians are protected from discrimination based on religious belief or activity.

The timing of introducing the bill, ahead of federal elections, which are just months away, is seen as an attempt by the Morrison government to target religious voters.

What does the Religious Discrimination Bill say?

Essentially, the Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a person on the basis of religious belief or activity in many areas of life, including work, education, access to premises and the provision of goods, services and housing.

“Discrimination is unlawful if it occurs, for example, because of a religious belief or activity that the person holds or engages in. It is also unlawful if it is caused by a relationship with another person who holds a religious belief.” is or is engaged in or activity, whether or not they themselves engage in any religious belief or activity,” states the Bill.

But the bill also allows faith-based organizations such as religious schools to appoint and enroll people of particular religions. The bill states that religious bodies “may, in good faith, give preference to persons professing or engaging in any particular religious belief or activity”.

It is held that “… a religious body shall not discriminate against any person under this Act which, in good faith, consists in conduct that a person of the same religion may reasonably consider in accordance with the principles of the religious body.” 26 principles, beliefs or teachings of that religion.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that because of this clause, the bill has alarmed some LGBTQI groups and some legal experts, who say the bill would discriminate against gay teachers and students.

It also pointed out that religious schools, on the other hand, welcomed the bill’s provisions for providing a clear national framework that would allow them to “proactively employ staff of their own faith, and maintain stability by overriding poor state laws.” will allow”.

criticisms

Some critics of the bill see it as a piece of legislation that is legalizing hate, while others are questioning the government and demanding evidence that people are discriminated against on the basis of religion in the country. .

A user on Twitter said, “If this bill was really about religious freedom, it would have been called a religious freedom bill… but it is not. This is a Religious Discrimination Bill, because all this Bill has been made to do #ReligiousDiscriminationBill.

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Along with this, there is also a demand to protect gay students from discrimination. But Morrison has said that it will take at least a year for the legislation related to this bill to be passed. “Gay students should not be expelled from religious schools, and gay teachers who are employed in those schools should not be fired if they are gay.” Morrison said on Thursday.

Australian Senator Mehreen Farooqui posted on Twitter to criticize the bill, saying: “Here’s Morrison introducing the Religious Discrimination Bill today. Anger at a man whose government fails to condemn right-wing extremism targeting Muslims And who coordinates with the Modi administration which has made India a more dangerous place for Sikhs and Muslims.

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