According to Cath News, a religious discrimination act is the key recommendation of the review into religious freedoms, by former Liberal attorney-general Philip Ruddock, released on 13 December.
According to Cath News, Mr Morrison told The Australian he was accepting Mr Ruddock’s recommendation because religion and faith were central to the lives of millions of Australians, their families and their communities. “Australia is a secular democracy but that does not mean that Australians are a godless people,” Mr Morrison said. “Australians have a diversity of faith and religious backgrounds and these should all be respected ... Protecting freedom of belief is central to the liberty of each and every Australian.”
Draft legislation will be released early next year and will include a provision for the creation of a “freedom of religion” commissioner to sit within the Australian Human Rights Commission, Cath News reports. The Government will seek feedback on the draft legislation, which will make it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of an individual’s religious beliefs, before taking the new policy to next year’s election.
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said he supported the introduction of a religious discrimination act because society had changed.
“Australians used to be ‘live and let live’ on religious matters. Our neighbours could have a different religion to us,” he said. “We gave each other the space to be different. But lately there has been a hard-edged secularism that wants to stamp out religion from public life. So that’s why I think there are calls today for religious discrimination legislation.”
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference spokesman on religious freedom, Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli, welcomed the Morrison Government’s release of the Religious Freedom Review and its response.
“The release of the Religious Freedom Review will help Australians have a more informed debate on how best to recognise religious freedom in Australian law,” Archbishop Comensoli said.
“Our preference is that the law recognise religious freedom in a positive way as a basic, internationally-protected human right – and one that deserves protection.
“The major political parties have expressed their support for freedom of religion to be adequately addressed in Australian law, and we look forward to them making good on their commitments.
“We will be examining the Government’s response to the report to ensure it provides adequate protection for religious freedom.