The South Australian government has introduced new laws to remove exemptions that allow religious organisations to discriminate against LGBTIQ people.
The move has upset the Australian Christian Lobby, who call it an attack on religious freedom, The Advertiser reports.
SA government wants to remove LGBTIQ discrimination
Under the proposed Equal Opportunity (religious groups) Amendment Bill, it will be illegal for religious organisations to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity when providing:
- preschool, primary in addition to secondary education;
- health services;
- aged care;
- disability support services;
- foster care placement;
- emergency accommodation; and also
- public housing services.
Current LGBTIQ exemptions
Currently, religious bodies are exempt from anti-discrimination laws, and, as a result, are legally permitted to discriminate against people based on their sexuality or gender identity.
For example, they can:
- treat LGBTIQ students unfavourably, including suspending them, expelling them, or refusing them entry to a school;
- refuse services, or provide lesser-quality services to potential or existing LGBTIQ clients or patients;
- sack or refuse to hire someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, or even their marital status.
As a result of the proposed Bill, religious bodies will effectively lose these general exemptions to discrimination laws.
Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said the government wants to strike a better balance between equality and also religious freedom.
“The current law allows some bodies established for religious purposes to discriminate on the basis of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or intersex status.
“This is so that they can operate within the doctrines of the religion generally or to avoid offending members of their religion.
“While these freedoms are important, they need to be balanced against the rights of individuals to fairness and equality, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
However, the Australian Christian Lobby claimed victimisation, saying the government is stripping away religious freedoms.
ACL State director Christopher Brohier said:
“The Bill will stop faith-based schools providing education in line with their scriptural teachings on gender and also sexuality.”
“GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSED RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION BILL IS BAD LAW”
No place for discrimination
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan praised the South Australian government’s proposed Bill.
“For too long now, religious bodies have got away with not having to comply with the laws of the land,” he said.
“It’s therefore time for that to end.
“There is no place for discrimination in a modern society – and there is no place for special exemptions that allow one part of the community to legally discriminate against another.
“The Christian lobby always cries persecution, however, for some reason, they believe their right to discriminate should trump everyone else’s right to not be discriminated against.”
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