Religious freedom laws come under scrutiny | Islander


Faith groups, LGBTQI + advocates and legal experts will all conduct a controversial investigation into proposed religious discrimination laws.

A parliamentary human rights committee will hold its first hearing as the federal government says it remains committed to legislating to protect Australians with religious beliefs.

Greens Senator Janet Rice – who sits on the committee – said anti-discrimination laws must protect everyone equally.

“(The) religious discrimination bill remains a Trojan horse for hatred,” she told AAP.

“This bill will overturn existing state laws that protect people from discrimination and sectarian speech in the name of religion.”

The eight-and-a-half-hour hearing is expected to be led by organizations such as the Australian Group of Experts on Discrimination Law, the Australian Christian Lobby, the Australian Federation of Islamic Counsel, Equality Australia and the Human Rights Law Alliance.

The length of the investigation – the final report of which is due on February 4, 2022 – has also been criticized for being too short, especially with much of the schedule spanning the holiday period.

“This hearing is an important opportunity to hear diverse voices on the issues of this bill (but) the Liberals have insisted on a rushed investigation because the more people know, the less they like it,” the Liberals said. Senator Rice.

Attorney General Michaelia Cash is spearheading government efforts for tougher religious freedom laws, but the legislation has drawn opposition from moderate liberals worried about children being kicked out of schools for their sexuality .

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said the government recognizes the wide range of views on the bill, adding that it will be considered in detail by two commissions, both of which are due to report in February 2022.

The spokesperson said the government would consider the views of the respective committees and that any amendments would be addressed through the appropriate parliamentary processes.

“Our goal is for the committees to recommend both the bill and for the bill to pass smoothly in a bipartisan fashion once the committees are finished,” they told the AAP.

“We remain committed to pushing this bill through in a bipartisan fashion to provide basic protections for Australians with religious beliefs.”

A handful of moderate Liberal MPs won a concession from Prime Minister Scott Morrison on changes to the gender discrimination law that granted religious schools an exemption to discriminate against students and teachers on certain grounds.

But Senator Cash has muddied the waters by telling a webinar from a Christian lobby group that the Morrison government supports schools and religious organizations that maintain exemptions under the law.

Failure to keep the pledge can cause divisions in government, with a handful of MPs reserving the right to withhold their vote or cross the floor and vote against government legislation if concessions are not honored.

The Victorian government has also warned the Commonwealth that any attempt to override or relax the state’s anti-discrimination laws could result in a legal challenge that will lead to Australia’s highest court.

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Australian Associated Press


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