Freedom of religion is a core Australian value which has enriched the lives of Australians at an individual level and benefited society as a whole. The freedom to hold, express, and act on religious beliefs is an inalienable human right and integral to the dignity of the individual. Religion has also enriched Australian life through the provision of material welfare and charity, as well as being a shared source of ethics, meaning, and wisdom.
The toleration of religious belief that was once at the heart of the Australian way of life is threatened by a culture of censorship and the aggressive secularisation of the country’s major governmental, civic, and economic institutions. The idea that corporate Australia is asserting control over whether workers and employees are allowed to express religious beliefs at any time—such as the dismissal of Israel Folau by Rugby Australia in 2019 for quoting the bible on social media—is a repugnant attack on Australian values and deserves a response.
The purpose of this letter is to share IPA research and analysis into freedom of religion in Australia with the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (“the Committee”) as it conducts its inquiry into the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and related bills (“the Bill”). I have enclosed for the committee’s consideration the IPA’s November 2019 report Religious Liberty and its Challenges in Australia Today: A Report into the Federal Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill 2019, which is summarised in this letter where applicable.
While it is commendable that the Federal Government is giving attention to the serious and important question of how to protect the rights of Australians of faith, IPA research finds safeguarding these rights by expanding the anti-discrimination framework may be a counterproductive method to safeguard freedom of religion. Specifically, the research finds: the anti-discrimination legal framework is incompatible with religious liberty; the exemptions for statements of belief will fail to protect freedom of expression, and that exemptions for religious bodies are a narrow and unreliable mechanism to protect religious liberties.
To continue reading the IPA’s Submission to the Inquiry Into The Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and Related Bills.