Listen: Neil Foster explains the Religious Discrimination Bill to Ben McEachen
All of Australia is talking about it but do you know what is in the Religious Discrimination Bill?
Introduced to Parliament today by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, this bill has been promised since December 2018.
In the wake of the 2017 marriage postal survey, the Federal Government promised a religious freedom review would be conducted.
The review recommended protections for religious freedoms in Australia. Several versions of draft legislation have been aired during the past three years.
As The Conversation summarised about the earlier versions: “Human rights groups complained the bill weakened other human rights protections and created a licence to discriminate. Conservative groups complained it did not give adequate protections to people of faith”.
Fast forward to today and the bill being introduced to Parliament is a major step. But what is contained within the Religious Discrimination Bill?
As Hope News reported, the bill wants to ensure “statements of belief” are not considered discriminatory, providing they don’t threaten, intimidate, harass or vilify and they are not malicious to a “reasonable person”.
The bill wants to ensure “statements of belief” are not considered discriminatory, providing they don’t threaten, intimidate, harass or vilify and they are not malicious to a “reasonable person”.
What else does the bill seek to cover?
What is the purpose of the bill? And will it be good news or bad news for Australians?
Neil Foster is associate professor at Newcastle Law School, University of Newcastle. He also runs the Law and Religion Australia blog.
An expert in the intersection between religion and law, Foster looked closely at the bill.
“What’s important about the bill is that it fills a gap that has been present in Australian law for a long time,” Foster said.
“We have very patchy protection of the right to religious freedom in our country.
“One way that the rights of people to practice their faith is protected are through laws which make it unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of their faith.”
While the Religious Discrimination Bill is not perfect, according to Foster, it is a “reasonable, moderate piece of legislation that does not unduly privilege one side or the other, as it were.”
Listen to the full interview with Neil Foster in the player above.