Bianca de Marchi/AAP Submissions on the second version Christian Porter’s spiritual discrimination bill are closed, and we await the decision.
The first version of the costs was extensively criticised for going too far, or not far enough. In a problematic law reform procedure, Porter has actually paid little attention to those who said the first variation went too far. And for those critics, the second version is much the same as the first.
The bill is in numerous aspects an unremarkable anti-discrimination law. It is a copy-and-paste of the Sex, Disability and Age Discrimination Acts, reflecting both religious and nonreligious assistance for protecting people who are victimized because of their religious beliefs.
But in at least one respect, the bill is special, not just in Australia but, it appears, anywhere in the western world.
How hurtful speech is permitted in the draft
The bill turns discrimination protection on its head. It does not simply secure an individual from being discriminated against since of their faiths, it permits a person to actively discriminate on the basis of their religious beliefs.
This is not the normal “right to be treated the same” that our other discrimination laws guarantee. It is a right to mistreat others. It is a right to cause harm, in the name of “religious liberty”. And it is not a right some spiritual organisations even want.
Uniting Church president Deidre Palmer on the religious discrimination bill:
— David Crowe (@CroweDM) January 30, 2020
The bothersome part of the expense is clause 42 (provision 41 in the initial draft), which enables a person to say or write a honestly held spiritual belief, even if it is contrary to federal, state and area anti-discrimination laws.
Imagine if a person were to express a view based on their race, sex, ability or age in a way that was discriminatory. A person saying to a colleague, “I believe my race (or sex, ability or age) makes me remarkable to you.”
That is unlawful discriminatory conduct under existing laws. Under the draft spiritual discrimination bill, such a statement would be permitted for a spiritual belief, unless the declaration is destructive, likely to “bother, threaten, seriously frighten or vilify”, or could reasonably lead to a “serious offence”.
That “unless” leaves a great deal of scope for discrimination. Let’s state a company or service worker says something about a staff member or client that is based on their religious views, but is upsetting, hurtful or demeaning to the other person.
This may not be a “severe offense” as specified by the religious discrimination bill and, thanks to stipulation 42, the staff member or customer would not be protected from this conduct by any other anti-discrimination law in Australia.
How it might operate in practice
In a submission, members of the Australian Discrimination Law Professionals Group provided examples of behaviour the bill motivates, with impunity:
- an employer informing a transgender employee their identity protests the laws of God
- a childcare company saying to a single mom she is evil for depriving her child of a daddy
- a teacher informing a trainee with a special needs that his/her disability is a trial imposed by God
- a waiter in a café stating to a gay couple, “I will pray for your sins”.
In each of these examples, what is stated would be illegal discrimination, except the bill defeats the normal operation of existing discrimination laws.
The Australian Discrimination Law Experts Group supports the prohibition of religious discrimination, however the draft Religious Discrimination Bill goes far beyond this and is deeply flawed. You can find our submission on the Bill below? #auslaw #auspolhttps://t.co/GVp3JwH6vY
— Liam Elphick (@LiamElphick_) October 3, 2019
Rather than keeping the expression of religious belief within recognized bounds of civil, non-discriminatory speech, the expense clearly promotes its unconstrained expression. This will result in harm.
For example, ACON’s submission to the Ruddock questions into spiritual flexibility gave effective examples of individuals who currently avoid seeking health services for worry of being stigmatised by pejorative comments.
Spiritual discrimination against other faiths
Due to the fact that the costs uses similarly to all religious beliefs, the liberty to make statements of religion will also be a free-for-all.
An individual of one faith will be free to disparage, demean and embarrass an individual of another faith, even within the exact same faith: Hindus against Christians, Buddhists against Muslims, Orthodox Jews against progressive Jews, Catholics versus Anglicans, or Shia against Sunni Muslims.
And “all religions” is a large classification. Under the High Court’s test in the 1983 Scientology case, some types of satanism, for example, might qualify as a religion for the functions of this bill.
The expense would, for circumstances, permit a satanist hair stylist to say, really publicly, what they consider the crucifix around a consumer’s neck.
The Noosa Temple of Satan has actually made a submission to the attorney-general’s enquiry saying it would take full advantage of its rights under the law.
Stipulation 42 of the religious discrimination bill is not law reform; it is an abuse of the power of law. It is itself discriminatory, and it is hazardous.
Porter’s 3rd effort can not be taken seriously if it persists with this perverse technique to religious liberty.
Simon Rice does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any business or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has actually disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their scholastic consultation.
This content was originally published here.