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Religious Discrimination Act Campaign

In late 2018, as part of his government's Ruddock Religious Freedom Review response, Scott Morrison promised to implement a Religious Discrimination Act (RDA). This would see Religion become an attribute protected by anti-discrimination legislation in the same way as race, gender, age, disability and sexual orientation are. We expect the RDA to be introduced into parliament in February 2019.

We support the idea that people should not be discriminated against on the basis of religion or belief. That is, we agree that organisations, businesses and individuals should have no right to discriminate in the offering of employment or education, or in the exchange of goods and services, against any person based on that person's decision to follow a particular religion, to not follow a particular religion, or to follow no religion.

In that spirit, the NSL supports the idea of an RDA, but only if it relates solely to a ban on all religious discrimination. The NSL would not support any additional legislation that might allow religious bodies to be exempt from any national anti-discrimination laws, with the exception of specific cases where religion is an intrinsic requirement of the nature of a situation (for example, hiring only Catholics to be priests).

Any additional legislation which might allow such exemptions must be discussed in conjunction with the core RDA, and any proposed or granted exemptions must be publicly transparent.

The NSL strongly advocates for an "opt-in" clause, whereby any religious institution that wishes to take advantage of any RDA exemption provisions and be exempt from national anti-discrimination laws must publicly announce and advertise the fact, via public notices and website declarations, and in employment contracts, highlighting their choice and right to discriminate against specific segments of the public. Failure to make such announcements should result in legal sanctions.

We believe that even if anti-discrimination exemptions are granted as part of the RDA, many religious organisations will choose not to take advantage of them. But those that do must be completely open and honest with the public about that fact.

Update: Given the potential unpopularity of discrimination law exemptions, implementation of an RDA seems to have been delayed. We will provide additional information once more becomes known.

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