Australian Christian Lobby calls for government to scrap religious Bill

Australian Christian Lobby calls for government to scrap religious Bill

While some are calling for broader protections, the peak Christian lobby group says a contentious piece of legislation should be scrapped altogether.

Conservative Christian lobbyists are calling for the government to scrap the Religious Discrimination Bill altogether, saying it has been “completely undermined” by increased protections to gay and transgender students.

Meanwhile, Equality Australia and Amnesty International have praised the five Liberal MPs who broke ranks with their party to vote for amendments that would protect all LGBTIQ+ students but say if greater protections cannot be achieved in the Senate, the Bill should be voted down.

In a statement, Australian Christian Lobby director Wendy Francis said the Bill had been intended to protect faith-based, primarily single-sex schools, but changes to the Act “now do more harm than good”.

“The Australian Christian Lobby withdraws its support for the Religious Discrimination Bill package and calls on the Morrison government to now withdraw the Bills from the Senate,” Ms Francis said.

“Taking away protections for Christian schools is a price too high to pay for the passage of the Religious Discrimination Bill. The amendments voted on by Labor, independents and these Liberal MPs unnecessarily interfere with the operation of faith-based schools.

“With the amendments so damaging to religious freedom, the government should immediately withdraw the Bills.”

Earlier, Assistant Attorney-General Amanda Stoker had indicated the government would consider icing the Bill if it failed to get through the Senate.

Senator Stoker told Sky News on Thursday morning that the government was “checking in with all of the stakeholder groups” in considering what would happen next.

“We need to make sure that we are consulting (with stakeholders), and making sure that … we can fully appreciate the implications of that amendment before we have to deal with the Senate,” she said.

LGBTIQ+ advocates Equality Australia says the Senate need to now amend the Religious Discrimination Bill to remove provisions that override existing anti-discrimination protections as well as strengthen changes to the Sex Discrimination Act to ensure protection for students and staff.

“Today, many young gay and trans people will wake up and feel like they belong thanks to those MPs that stood on the courage of their convictions for equality,” Equality Australian chief executive Anna Brown said.

“We are grateful for the strength of Liberal MPs Bridget Archer, Dave Sharma, Fiona Martin, Katie Allen and Trent Zimmerman, who crossed the floor, joining Labor, Adam Bandt, Andrew Wilkie, Helen Haines, Rebekha Sharkie and Zali Steggall to secure the protections.

“But it’s extremely disappointing that some of the same MPs did not take up the opportunity to also prevent the erosion of the hard-fought rights of LGBTIQ+ people, women and people with disability.”

The Bill will now go to the Senate, where Labor will seek further amendments that would offer greater protections to victims of religious-based vilification and recipients of home care.

Ms Brown said if the Senate could not reach an agreement that would ensure the standards of protection are raised for everyone without undermining existing protections, the Bill should be scrapped.

“Our laws should protect all of us, equally, regardless of who we are, whom we love or what we believe,” Ms Brown said.

“The Senate must now ensure that the standards of protection are raised for everyone … This will require leadership from each of our elected representatives and the conviction to stand up for laws that unite us, not divide us.

“If this cannot be achieved, we call on Labor, the crossbench, and members of the government to vote the Bill down in its entirety.”

Amnesty International is also calling for the government to scrap the Bill if the Senate cannot broaden protections.

“As it stands, the Religious Discrimination Bill is divisive and takes us backwards. The Senate must work to broaden protections for everyone,” a statement read.

“If they can’t, the Bill must be scrapped in its entirety.”

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Author: Shirley