February 8th 2020


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Sensible environment policies can counter extremists

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Bushfires: Never let a good crisis go to waste

CANBERRA OBSERVED Submarine build gives us a sinking feeling

RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION Bill Mark II a shade better but still faulty

OBITUARY Wilson Gavin: Requiescat in Pace

WORLD AFFAIRS Central banks move to dictate climate policies

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Trump impeachment will end with a whimper

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Australia considers a Magnitsky-type law

SOCIETY The optimist vindicated? Er, no!

LITERATURE AND SOCIETY The poetry of Distributism

ASIAN POLITICS Changing of the guard: Taiwan votes

HUMOUR Legal X-clamation points and that

MUSIC Is there a way to virtue via the sublime?

CINEMA The Authentic Mr Rogers: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

BOOK REVIEW How little, low-tech militias stay under the radar of huge, high-tech armies

BOOK REVIEW First novel dips into depths of medical murder-suspense genre

POETRY

LETTERS

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Coronavirus: China must answer hard questions

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RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION
Bill Mark II a shade better but still faulty


by Terri M. Kelleher

News Weekly, February 8, 2020

Attorney-General Christian Porter has released a second exposure draft Religious Discrimination Bill (RDB2).

Following feedback from the consultation on the first exposure draft Bill, the RDB2 makes some welcome amendments. For example it allows “religious bodies” to preference people of their religion and provides that religious bodies do not discriminate when they engage in conduct to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of their religion.

However, there are still limitations on the protections the Bill provides against religious discrimination.

The freedom to make statements of faith is still unduly restricted. It is not only statements of belief that actually “vilify” another person that may amount to discrimination, but also such statements that “are likely to vilify”. This is a low threshold.

Religious hospitals, aged-care providers and accommodation providers are allowed to preference people of the same religion only in relation to staffing, not in relation to those they provide services to.

These bodies normally provide their services to all who seek them. However, there may be circumstances when giving preference to a person of the same religion may be something necessary to preserve the ethos of the facility.

For example, where religious practices as to diet or dress or devotions are adhered to and are part of the culture of an aged-care facility, and/or where religious beliefs about sexual relationships are shared, it would be confronting for residents of the religion of the facility to have persons openly living according to and/or expressing contrary views being admitted to residence.

The definition of “religious belief or activity” does not include the belief that humans are binary, male and female. People who hold that belief are not protected if they are sacked from their job because they hold that belief, or are passed over for promotion or training or are forced to teach gender fluid sex-education programs in schools.

The Bill does not protect teachers, principals, school counsellors or welfare officers employed in government schools when they are directed by state education department policies to support students gender transitioning with puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones; or when they are directed to teach explicit and/or gender fluid sex education against their beliefs.

The Bill says that it is not unlawful to discriminate against an employee if their religious beliefs mean the employee is unable to “carry out the inherent requirements of the employment”. These education department policies have become inherent requirements for employment in government schools.

Most, if not all, major religious traditions hold the biological view of sexual identity: that sex is binary, male and female determined by reproductive function. So, the belief that sex is binary, male and female, is a matter of religious belief for many people. People who hold this belief should be protected from discrimination for doing so.

The transgender worldview, that gender is fluid and may differ from a person’s biological sex, is recognised in law. If the biological worldview, that human beings are binary, male and female, was also recognised in laws by defining “sex” (“Male or Female according to reproductive function”) and re-inserting the definitions of “man” (“a member of the male sex”) and “woman” (“a member of the female sex”) so that a diversity of views about the nature of human sexuality is allowed, then people holding that view would be protected against discrimination for doing so.

The Bill does not protect the right of parents to “ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions” as is recognised in Article 18.4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 26 (c) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, if a request for their child to opt out of gender fluid sex education is refused. This is discrimination against the parents.

Freedom of religion is an inherent right, that is, a right that belongs to each person by virtue of being human, and inherent rights cannot be abrogated.

The restrictions on the right to freedom of religion, conscience, thought and belief in the ICCPR, which Australia has signed and ratified, “are only … such limitations as … are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others”.

The limitations on the protection from discrimination provided by the Bill are much wider.




























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