The Australian government on Thursday introduced a much-debated bill that would protect the right of believers to express their religious beliefs without being “annulled, persecuted or vilified.”
The law, proposed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a devout Christian, aims to protect Australians from existing anti-discrimination legislation when they do “Statements of belief”.
“Many people of various religious traditions are concerned about the lack of religious protection against the prevalence of ‘culture of cancellation’ in Australian life,” Morrison said, explaining the decision to go ahead with the bill.
People should not be annulled, persecuted, or vilified because their beliefs are different from someone else’s.
The legislation comes after several years of debate on the issue of religious discrimination and the expression of faith following the passage of same-sex marriage in the country in 2017.
LGBT + rights groups have raised concerns about the protection offered to religious groups in the bill, warning that it could allow them to engage in derogatory or harmful behavior in the workplace, in schools or other institutions.
One of the concerns raised by activists opposing the legislation is that it would allow religious organizations to prioritize hiring people of faith. LGBT + groups fear this could lead to the dismissal of teachers in Catholic schools across the country due to the “Religious ethos”.
In an attempt to appease criticism, the Australian government has made it clear that the freedom afforded by this legislation would not allow religious people to “Threaten, intimidate, harass or defame” others.
There is no guarantee that the bill will pass the lower house when it goes to a vote next week, as some lawmakers threaten to oppose the legislation over the unrelated issue of mandates on Covid-19 vaccines, which they want Morrison to ban.
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