The Commonwealth government's proposed "Freedom of Religion" legislation has been deferred until early next year. This is not a bad thing, because it gives time to see just how bad a law it is. It should really be called the "Religious Discrimination Bill".
We need only look to the Inquisition in pre-Enlightenment Europe, or Afghanistan today, to see the extremes of behaviour and discrimination possible when religious beliefs have the authority of the state.
Freedom of Religion has traditionally meant that you may believe, gather with others and worship without being discriminated against. It has not been about imposing your beliefs on other people.
We already have freedom to believe and worship as we like. If your religion is strongly linked to your cultural or racial background, then there are additional protections in existing anti-discrimination laws.
What those pushing this legislation really want is freedom to discriminate against others. They want the freedom to impose their views and beliefs on the rest of us in our ordinary lives and work.
This legislation will authorise one group of citizens to discriminate against others simply because they believe a, b or c and the others do not. It is not just about being gay. If you are divorced or a single mother, then you fall in the naughty square.
It is particularly galling after the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse exposed flaws in the way churches and schools historically handled and investigated complaints.
Treating individuals with particular characteristics unfairly is why anti-discrimination laws were enacted.
Consider one aspect of the legislation - strengthening provisions for religious institutions and schools to discriminate in employment against people who, they believe, are not complying with the requirements of their faith.
Under this legislation, those against whom religious schools or institutions discriminate will pay for the privilege through state aid funded by their taxes.
At the very least, if this bad law is passed, any school or other religious institution that uses it to discriminate against people should not get public funding.
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