Religious leaders “protections against religious discrimination at the federal level are long overdue”


The main religious leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic communities have issued a statement in favor of a bill on religious discrimination. They are calling for bipartisan support for the bill as it has been reported so far. Signatories include leaders of Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Adventist (denominational) networks.

We are grateful to the government for engaging in extensive consultations with a diverse group of religious leaders on the latest religious discrimination bill. This consultation is appropriate, given that such a bill will necessarily have a significant effect on people of faith and the religious bodies and organizations they have established.

As the Ruddock Review acknowledges, protections against religious discrimination at the federal level are long overdue. Religious leaders would welcome the introduction of substantial protections for believers against discrimination based on faith. Such protections are necessary because at the federal level there is currently little or no legislative protection against discrimination against a person on the basis of their identity and religious beliefs, and there are inconsistencies in how states and territories have addressed the issue, if at all. This contrasts with the existence of federal legislation that protects against discrimination based on certain other attributes.

While we have not seen the bill, we understand from our discussions with the government that some of the measures in previous exposure drafts have been removed, such as protections against employer codes of conduct which restrict religious discourse outside the workplace, and protect the conscience of healthcare professionals. We would have preferred that these protections have been retained in one form or another.

Based on what we have been informed will be the content of the bill, we welcome this bill as it will protect people of faith from discrimination on the basis of their religious beliefs, and allow faith-based organizations to ” act in accordance with their doctrines, principles and beliefs without being dismissed as religious discrimination.

Human rights legislation as envisaged should be subject to periodic review. We will monitor the effect of any legislation that may be enacted and will gladly cooperate with the government in any review process to maximize the benefits of the legislation for all Australians.

With the most controversial measures apparently removed from the bill, there does not appear to be a reasonable reason for it to generate a deeply polarizing debate on religion. If the reports on key provisions of the bill are correct, it will deserve bipartisan support.

The Right Reverend Peter A Comensoli
Archbishop of Melbourne
Chairman, Bishops ‘Commission for Life, Family and Public Service Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference

Peter Wertheim AM
Co-CEO of the Australian Jewish Community Executive Council

Bilal Rauf
Spokesperson and advisor Australian National Imams Council

The Right Reverend Kanishka Raffel
Anglican Archbishop Diocese of Sydney

The Right Reverend Dr Michael Stead
Diocesan Clerk Bishop of South Sydney Anglican Diocese of Sydney

Reverend Mark Wilson
Director of National Ministries Australian Baptist Ministries (Baptist Union of Australia Inc.)

Dr Marshall Ballantine-Jones Executive Director
Executive of the New South Wales Council of Churches

Pierre Phillips
Moderator Victoria Presbyterian Church

Reverend Dr Philip Strong
Moderator Presbyterian Church of Queensland

Adrien lamrock
Moderator Presbyterian Church of Australia in NSW and ACT

Hussein Faraj
United Shia Islamic Foundation

Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
Maronite Bishop of Australia Maronite Eparchy of Australia

His Grace Monsignor Daniel
Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church – Diocese of Sydney and Affiliated Regions Vice President of the Apostolic Christian Churches of Australasia – Middle East (AMEC)

Pastor Terry Johnson
President Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia

Al stewart
National Director of the Association of Independent Evangelical Churches

Pastor Wayne Alcorn
National President Australian Christian Churches

Wayne swift
National Leader Acts Global Churches

Pastor Ross Abraham
President of the International Network of Churches

Reverend David Tse
President of the Sydney Chinese Christian Churches Association

Mar Meelis Zaia AM
Metropolitan and Patriarchal Vicar General Eastern Assyrian Church Archdioceses of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon

Vanessa Cheng
Executive Director Australian Association of Christian Schools

Reverend David Tse
President of the Sydney Chinese Christian Churches Association

President Abdallah Khan
Association of Islamic Schools of Australia

Wayne swift
National Leader Acts Global Churches

Patrick Parkinson
Freedom for Faith Chair

Dr Daryl Murdoch
National Director of Adventist Schools in Australia

Marc Spencer
Director of Public Policy Christian Schools Australia

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