PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has committed to introduce a Religious Discrimination Act into parliament by the end of this year, amid growing pressure to “positively” protect religious freedoms.
“I would like to see this issue progressed with a sensitivity, with a sense of cooperation, and with a sense of balance,” he told ABC’s 730 program on July 1.
“Religious freedom is a core pillar of our society. And it’s not unreasonable. And I think there are many millions of Australians who would like to see that protected, and I intend to follow through on that commitment.”
During the federal election campaign, the Mr Morrison said a Religious Discrimination Act would be a priority for a re-elected Coalition government.
Some Coalition members, including New South Wales Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, are pressing hard – demanding broader protections for people of faith, including exempting religious belief from employment contracts.
Such a provision would protect views such as those expressed by former Wallaby, Israel Folau that led to his sacking by Rugby Australia.
A petition circulated by Senator Fierravanti-Wells demands new legislation must “positively” protect religious freedom in the workplace and schools “so that people can object to participating in activities that contravene their beliefs without losing their job”, so that “parents can raise children in accordance with their faith and send them to religious schools”, and “gather publicly without fear of being shut down”.
She said both major parties “have people that would prefer to advance LGBT rights over those of religious people to proclaim their faith”.
Mr Morrison would not confirm if Mr Folau, who said on social media that homosexual people would go to hell (among others including adulterers, liars, fornicators and idolaters), would be safe under the proposed laws.
“I think it’s important, ultimately, that employers have reasonable expectations of their employees, and that they don’t impinge on their areas of private practice and private belief or private activity,” Mr Morrison said.
“And there’s a balance that has to be struck in that, and our courts will always ultimately decide this based on the legislation that’s presented.”
Mr Folau and Rugby Australia are headed to the federal court after both parties failed to settle the dispute in mediation talks last month.