Christians across the country have reacted with fury over the drama surrounding the government’s barely breathing religious bill.
Christians across the country have reacted with fury over the drama surrounding the government’s barely breathing religious bill, claiming they are also facing discrimination.
The Australian Christian Lobby (CSL) and Christian Schools Australia (CSA) are among the high profile names to trash the PM and the federal government, with the Director of Public Policy for CSA particularly unhappy on Sky News.
Meanwhile Family Voice questioned the Prime Minister “why the hostile attacks?” and Liberal MP Jason Falinski claimed Australians of belief “remain unprotected under the law”.
The Morrison government shelved its controversial religious freedom laws after a high adrenaline day which saw the bill, with amendments, pass the House of Representatives in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Those amendments mean protections for gay and transgender children from discrimination by religious schools.
The move shocked many conservatives, with the Australian Christians calling it “simply unacceptable”.
As the furore grew on Thursday afternoon, the government shelved the bill, apparently because it doesn’t give the Senate enough time to debate it before the election.
As it stands, the religious discrimination bill is technically still breathing, but the likelihood of it being passed is incredibly slim.
Overnight Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker told Sky News host Peta Credlin the bill in the end was not “workable”.
“With the amendments that were passed in the wee hours of this morning, we were left as a government with no option but to pull the entire package because the changes that were made would’ve actually exposed religious people to more discrimination.”
Later, Director of Public Policy for CSA Mark Spencer appeared on Sky News and said if the changes went ahead the whole process would be in tatters.
“We’ve had expert panel reviews, we’ve got a law reform commission ready to do some work, we’ve had two parliamentary inquiries say, ‘pass the religious discrimination bill’, and despite all that expert advice, parliament still in the wee small hours of this morning, trashed that and put in place a package that is unacceptable and has these problems,” he told Kieran Gilbert.
“I think people of faith across Australia are bitterly disappointed by the outcome from this parliament, this whole conflicted campaign we’ve had since 2018 of trying to link religious freedom and protect people of faith with complex provisions in the Sex Discrimination Act in a way that just simply doesn’t reflect reality.
“The changes to the Sex Discrimination Act are complex, and as we’ve found out today, it needs expert review, not something to be rushed through in the dead of night by parliament.”
“This is complex legislation, simply striking out that subsection impacts the ability of any faith based school to teach a view of sexuality and gender and marriage and morality that reflects their beliefs.
“Now these are pretty fundamental beliefs for all of the monotheistic faiths, Christian schools, Catholic schools, Jewish schools, Muslim schools all have views around appropriate sexual conduct, be that heterosexual or homosexual.
“Those views under the proposed amendment would be very doubtful whether we could continue to teach those within our schools.”
Mr Spencer said his schools treat gay and transgender kids “in the same way we’ve been dealing with them for many years”.
“They will deal with it in a very sensitive, very caring, very pastoral way on a case-by-case basis with the student in question and with the family, reflecting the needs of the other students in that cohort, reflecting the context of their school community and how that is going to be worked out in a way that is in the best interests for that child within the school context.”
Mr Spencer said the religious discrimination bill is “clearly needed”.
“A significant number of people of faith in Australia are suffering discrimination.”
Mr Spencer said he supported the review of exemptions to the Sex Discrimination Act but through an “appropriate” body like the Law Reform Commission.
“There are provisions that do need to be updated and modernised,” he said.
Meanwhile the Australian Christian Lobby said the bills were “intended to help faith-based schools”, but they now “do more harm than good”.
Five Liberal MPs joined with Labor and the crossbench on Thursday to extend the protections to gay students to those of diverse gender identity.
The ACL said in doing so, “the loss of this protection would outweigh any benefits that could be obtained by the Religious Discrimination Bill”.
“Taking away protections for Christian schools is a price too high to pay for the passage of the Religious Discrimination Bill,” it said.