Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher and Attorney General Christian Porter to discuss religious discrimination bill

Attorney-General Christian Porter will sit down with Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP to discuss a way forward on a religious discrimination act, after Australian Catholic bishops and law experts raised concerns any legislation would be merely “symbolic” without adequate consultation.

According to The Catholic Weekly, on June 5 Archbishop Fisher sent a letter to Mr Porter offering to engage on the proposed bill in the hope of ensuring people of faith receive genuine protection under the law.

 “The passing of religious discrimination legislation may be a symbolic gesture towards people of faith that they are an important part of the Australian community, but only well-crafted legislation born of rigorous consultation and sound principle will ensure that this symbolism amounts to real protection,” said Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP.

According to The Australian, the letter went unanswered for over a month until a spokesman for Mr Porter confirmed on July 10 that a meeting between the Attorney General and Archbishop Fisher will be arranged in coming days.

“The Archbishop’s letter was received on the 13th June and a response will be provided shortly,” Mr Porter’s spokesman said. “In the response the AG advises the Archbishop that there will be an opportunity for consultation with the government on the Religious Discrimination Bill which will be arranged for a mutually convenient time.”

Professor Michael Quinlan, Dean of the School of Law at Notre Dame University, Sydney, said he would encourage the Federal Government to consult religious groups on any draft legislation as soon as possible.

 “The Coalition is to be commended in working towards the introduction of this missing piece to our protections from discrimination, but it is unfortunate that widespread consultation with religious groups has not yet taken place,” Professor Quinlan said.

“The main reason is that although most people will agree with the general concept, there will be numerous disagreements about extent and detail.”

“With a quarter of Australians identifying as Catholic and more than half as Christians, and as the providers of education, healthcare and welfare to a very large proportion of the Australian population, you can appreciate the Catholic Church’s interest in the course of any conversations about freedom of religion,” Archbishop Fisher said.

The Attorney General is set to take his religious discrimination bill workshops for Coalition MPs on a nationwide tour after meeting with up to 20 MPs last Friday in Canberra.

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