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Ruddock report constrains, not expands, federal religious exemptions

Liam Elphick and colleagues write in The Conversation (10.10.18) about the release of details from the federal government's Ruddock Review into religious protections and freedoms in Australia. The authors note that the report affirms that religious freedom is not to be legally entrenched as superior to rights to equality and freedom from discrimination.

'Media outlets today reported on leaked extracts of the much-awaited religious freedom inquiry report, which has yet to be released by the federal government. The leaked recommendations give us a clear snapshot into what the review means for religious freedom and LGBT+ rights in Australia.

'Despite much commentary to the contrary, the recommendations actually constrain rather than expand federal religious exemptions to LGBT+ protections.

'… The central recommendation of the now-leaked sections of the Ruddock report is the introduction of a federal prohibition on religious discrimination.

'This would mean that, for instance, it would be unlawful to fire someone because they are Muslim, or require a sabbath-observant Christian student to attend classes on a Sunday. The protection extends to absence of belief, so that a person should not be discriminated on the basis that they are atheist or agnostic.

'Currently, federal laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, age, sex and other attributes, but not religion. Though most states protect religious belief, this federal protection would add appropriate coverage across Australia and fill any existing gaps.'

There's no argument or support for allowing schools to discriminate against LGBTIQ teachers

Mary Lou Rasmussen and colleagues write in The Conversation (16.10.18) that, in light of details from the Ruddock Review, public opinion polls and a survey of Australian youth show there's little support for allowing schools to hire or fire teachers based on their sexual orientation.

'Part of the Ruddock report on the review of religious freedoms was leaked last week in the media. The review was commissioned on the eve of the legalisation of same-sex marriage. The review addresses schools’ right to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

'There appears to be a lack of public support for any exemptions that allow schools to have policies that exclude students based on sexual and gender diversity. But this doesn’t mean discrimination will suddenly disappear.

'Perversely, mandating that schools publicly advertise their position, as recommended by the review, might provide stronger safeguards for students and teachers. Families and young people might be able to better determine which schools are definitely not inclusive.'


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