Tolerance underpins our nation's religious freedom

The Australian EDITORIAL
Wednesday December 11, 2019

with an interesting online discussion following

The Morrison government's religious freedom reforms were nudged forward on Tuesday with the release of the second exposure draft of its religious discrimination bill.

The revised bill takes in changes that have arisen from a months-long consultation process with religious groups, businesses, doctors and the LGBTI community, most of whom pushed back strongly against the first bill. The Coalition's creed has been protections that work as a "shield from discrimination, not a sword" and the latest iteration is a better reflection of that principle. After the acrimony of the Israel Folau and Rugby Australia saga, the talks on how to balance competing human rights have been characterised by goodwill.

Scott Morrison described it as "good faith engagement". The Prime Minister will finetune the legislation over summer; when it hits parliament in the new year he hopes it is a "unifying expression of our country's firm belief in religious freedom", applying to people of no faith and people of faith.

Major changes to the draft released by Attorney-General Christian Porter in August include making it clear
  1. "religious bodies", as defined by the bill (including charities such as Vinnies), can continue to make staffing decisions based on faith (though this was something not specifically requested by St Vinnies - Steve)
  2. supporting existing conscientious objection processes so they apply only to nurses, midwives, doctors, psychologists and pharmacists
  3. allowing religious hospitals and aged-care centres to employ staff to preserve a faith ethos
  4. "vilify" has been defined as incitement of hatred or violence, while "conscientiously object" reflects input from medical bodies (to apply to procedures and not a person)
  5. the so-called "Folau clause" is extended to legal and medical bodies, placing a burden on organisations to show undue financial hardship to stop expression of religious beliefs on, say, social media.
The legislative package has its genesis in the marriage equality plebiscite, which preceded the updating of the Marriage Act two years ago. Then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull set off a religious freedom review, headed by Philip Ruddock, which recommended changes to human rights laws to protect religious freedom, including a new office of the freedom of religion commissioner.

In one sense, codifying these protections will undergird a whole new edifice of the rights industry and grievance brigade. That's why redrafting has been an "intricate" process, in Mr Morrison's words. Implementation will bring its own challenges, but hopefully the spirit of the new laws will promote tolerance rather than introduce a new arena for division. We live in hope; at least the process to date has erred on the side of consensus, limiting the potential for courtroom drama. Judges will decide.

Where does ordinary Australian tolerance and respect come into it? Mr Porter was asked on Tuesday how the bill would affect a controversial statement made at a Christmas party. He almost echoed John Hewson's doomed response in 1993 to GST on a birthday cake. "Well, it would depend on whether or not a Christmas party is in the context of work, and that would depend on how it's organised and when it was held and who organised it," the nation's first law officer said, adding that something posted on Facebook on a Saturday was going to be outside of work.
Got it, Lawyer. 

Mr Morrison says he has faith in the common sense of Australians, who he says are tolerant and realise our liberties come with responsibilities. We agree. Freedom of religion is but one of a range of freedoms in our society; it must not be subordinate to other human rights or dominate. Through bipartisanship and more consultation, a robust new protection for believers should emerge.

John 17 HOURS AGO (i.e. at 12:15am 11th Dec 2019) Huh, isn't made up ancient religion all about inheriting intolerance from the distant past and stubbornly and mindlessly sticking to it! I could make a up a religion with all sorts of persecutory beliefs. Would you like to tolerate that? Likethumb_up 9 (another) John 9 HOURS AGO "made up ancient religion" I and the rest of the world are waiting for your evidence that there is no God. NO ONE HAS EVER proved that there is NO GOD. Just NO ONE CAN prove that there is a God. Both positions are a matter of faith. If you are looking to science to prove your position, science once told us that the earth was the centre of the Universe, then it told us that the earth was flat. When I was at high school my science teacher told me that when he was at University he was taught that there was nothing smaller than an atom. You can not put God into a test tube. Likethumb_up 5 (First) John 4 HOURS AGO The onus is on those claiming something exists to show evidence. How could it be otherwise? I could claim anything exists to support some narrative. Likethumb_up 2 TP 8 HOURS AGO But John, could you 'make up' Jesus? He's the essence of Christianity and the one it should be judged by. Likethumb_up 1 (second) John 3 HOURS AGO TP there is no doubt that there was a person called Jesus who came from Nazareth. There is also no doubt that he was crucified by the Romans. Apart from the Gospels there is also secular evidence from Roman records. The question is was he part of the Godhead? Did he do the things that are recorded in the Gospels. I believe that the answer to the 2 questions is Yes, but I can not prove it just as no one can disprove it. Both positions are based upon "faith"

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