Submission on Second Exposure Draft Religious Freedom Bills

As indicated in our earlier Briefing, the Government released a second exposure draft of the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill and associated legislation for public consultation and feedback in December. 

CSA has now finalised and lodged our submission on behalf of schools in response to the draft legislation.  A copy can be downloaded by member schools from the link below.

As with our analysis of the first draft Religious Freedom Bills we have analysed whether this second exposure draft meets three goals –

  • Ensuring Australia meets its obligations under international law,
  • Elimination of ambiguity and uncertainty in the proposed legislation,
  • Establishing an enduring legislative framework addressing current and foreseeable issues.

The second exposure draft is a clear improvement in many areas, and reflects a Government prepared to listen and respond to concerns.  Against these objectives, however, the submission recommends further changes, namely that:

  1. the objects of the Religious Discrimination Bill be expanded to encompass the right of parents to access an education for their children in conformity with their faith.
  2. religious activity not involving a criminal offence be protected by the Bill.
  3. any conduct or statement which is made with “genuine conviction” that the conduct or statement is “in accordance with, or in furtherance of” the relevant “doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings” should be protected.
  4. corporate entities are protected by the adoption of language from those amendments proposed to the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 by Senators Fawcett and Paterson and Andrew Hastie MP.
  5. the term “vilify” be removed or defined and that the provision be clarified to ensure that protected statements of belief are not constrained by State or Territory “vilification” legislation.
  6. the exception for qualifying bodies be removed.
  7. the exception for conduct under State law only apply to laws specifically prescribed by regulation.
  8. greater clarity is provided in relation to the protections of accreditation and funding of Christian schools.
  9. the Bill be amended to include provisions based on the Siracusa Principles to resolve situations of competing rights, as recommended by the Religious Freedom Review.
  10. the office of Freedom of Religion Commissioner should not be established if it cannot be guaranteed that the Freedom of Religion Commissioner is a person of faith.
  11. the provisions related to the appointment of a Freedom of Religion Commissioner be removed from the Religious Discrimination (Consequential Amendments) Bill.
  12. the proposed changes to existing Commonwealth anti-discrimination legislation also inlude provisions incorporating the Siracusa Principles to guide the resolution of any conflict of competing rights.
  13. further changes be made to the Charities Act 2013 (Cth) to ensure that the support of traditional views of marriage by charitable institutions is recognised as being for the public benefit.

It provides detailed analysis of the draft Bills and proposed amendments to reflect these recommendations.

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