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'Inequality in a dog collar': how the Religious Discrimination Bill hands more power to the powerful

By Rodney Croome - posted Monday, 21 October 2019

The Religious Discrimination Bill, and the "religious freedom" movement from which it sprang, are not about protecting religion, stopping discrimination or enhancing freedom.

They are about giving power and privilege to those who already have them, at the expense of those who don't.

The Bill overrides existing discrimination law by giving health practitioners, who already have significant power, extra power to withhold their valuable services from those most in need, as long as there's a religious reason for it.


The Bill overrides fair work laws by giving every budding workplace bully free rein to treat their colleagues and customers like dirt, so long as they can frame their ill-treatment of others in terms of a "statement of belief".

The Bill overrides Tasmania's anti-discrimination provision against offensive, humiliating and intimidating language, a law that protects traditionally stigmatised groups - people with disability, LGBTIQ people, racial minorities, single parents - from those powerful members of society who stigmatise them. Meanwhile, the federal Bill leaves in place all the many laws that protect politicians, the powerful and the wealthy from being defamed, offended or insulted.

The Bill will appoint a Religious Freedom Commissioner, despite the Ruddock Panel finding no evidence religious freedom is being violated, and despite there being no sexuality or gender identity commissioner to provide some balance.

False narratives

What is the rationale for punching all these holes in so many of the existing anti-discrimination protections that have protected vulnerable Australians for half a century?

How do proponents of the Government's appalling Bigots' Charter justify granting special legal privileges to religious people and their beliefs that are not available to other people and their beliefs?


And why will Australian churches have a government-appointed and taxpayer-funded defender, apologist and attack dog.

When explaining themselves, the Bill's defenders repeat the name of a wealthy celebrity rugby player, Israel Folau, who had his contract cancelled after he deliberately and repeatedly broke its terms, terms he had agreed to, by damning LGBTIQ people to Hell.

For good measure they throw in the name of a Catholic Archbishop, Julian Porteous, who was asked to attend a conciliation over a booklet he issued suggesting same-sex partners aren't whole people and "mess with kids". When he refused to change even a single word the case against the booklet was dropped.

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About the Author

Rodney Croome is a spokesperson for Equality Tasmania and national advocacy group, just.equal. He who was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003 for his LGBTI advocacy.

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