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Can religious vilification laws protect religious freedoms?

Rick Sarre writes in The Conversation (19.7.16) about legislative options available to bolster the defence of civil freedoms, in the face of continued racial and, especially, religious vilification within Australian society.

‘On June 28, the Thornlie Mosque and Australian Islamic College in Perth was targeted by vandals. A vehicle was destroyed by fire, and offensive graffiti was sprayed on a nearby wall.

‘True, the law courts can respond accordingly if the offenders are caught, given this attack involved criminal offences. But is there not also a role for anti-vilification legislation to bolster society’s defences against the more overt and worrisome displays of religious bigotry?

‘… Given the muscles that the One Nation senators can now flex in Canberra, and given the campaign being waged by the Institute of Public Affairs, not to mention the simmering antipathy towards Section 18C of both Attorney-General George Brandis and conservative columnist Andrew Bolt, one can safely assume that the section will not be widened in the foreseeable future by any new “religious vilification” amendment.

‘That would simply be pouring petrol on the fire that Pauline Hanson is likely to start lighting under the Racial Discrimination Act very soon.’

Government’s religious discrimination bill enshrines the right to harm others in the name of faith

Simon Rice writes in The Conversation (10.2.20) that the Morrison government’s bill is striking in one respect: it actively allows a person to discriminate on the basis of their religious beliefs.

‘Submissions on the second version Christian Porter’s religious discrimination bill are closed, and we await the verdict.

‘The first version of the bill was widely criticised for going too far, or not far enough. In a flawed law reform process, Porter has paid little attention to those who said the first version went too far. And for those critics, the second version is much the same as the first.

‘The bill is in many respects an unremarkable anti-discrimination law. It is a copy-and-paste of the Sex, Disability and Age Discrimination Acts, reflecting both religious and secular support for protecting people who are discriminated against because of their religion.

‘But in at least one respect, the bill is unique, not just in Australia but, it seems, anywhere in the western world.

‘The bill turns discrimination protection on its head. It doesn’t merely protect a person from being discriminated against because of their religious beliefs, it allows a person to actively discriminate on the basis of their religious beliefs.’

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