This is a summary of our joint submission to the Inquiry on Legislative exemptions that allow faith-based educational institutions to discriminate against students, teachers and staff.
Community Legal Centres NSW and Kingsford Legal Centre submit that freedom of religion and the right to equality and non-discrimination are both fundamental rights which should be balanced fairly and justly for all Australians. In doing so, we submit that religious freedom could be better protected under the current federal anti-discrimination law and that protections against religious vilification be introduced at the federal level.
However, freedom of religion should not come at the expense of the rights to equality and non-discrimination of others within the Australian community.
In order to achieve a just and equitable outcome in regards to balancing rights to equality and non-discrimination with freedom of religion, the following recommendations should be considered.
A summary of our recommendations appears below and you can access our full submission here.
Summary of recommendations
- Religion be a protected attribute under federal anti-discrimination law. Religion should be defined broadly to include both having a religion or belief and not having a religion or belief.
- Protections against religious vilification be introduced at the federal level.
- Religious organisations which receive public funding or perform a service on behalf of government should not be exempt from federal anti-discrimination laws.>
- The following changes to existing anti-discrimination legislation be made.
- All exemptions, including religious exemptions should be removed from the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) and replaced with a general limitations clause that deems discriminatory actions or conduct to be lawful when they are a reasonable, necessary and proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The general limitations clause should be drafted to ensure that acts that are currently unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act remain unlawful. In determining the application of the general limitation clause, the judiciary should be required to consider the objectives of the Sex Discrimination Act.
- In the alternative, all religious exemptions (with the exception of subsections 37(1)(a)-(c) of the Sex Discrimination Act be removed from federal anti-discrimination law.
- The federal government introduce a Human Rights Act.