Australians oppose religious ‘right’ to discriminate, poll finds

pflag spokesperson shelley argent religious discrimination rally brisbane religious freedom
Photo: Jordan Hirst

A new poll has found Australians “overwhelmingly” believe religious organisations should not have the right to discriminate against LGBTIQ people and others.

The Galaxy/YouGov poll, commissioned by PFLAG Australia, revealed 63% of Australians don’t believe religious organisations should have the right to discriminate against LGBTIQ people, unmarried mothers, divorcees and de facto partners.

The figure rose to 68% of people, including 48% of people who are strongly religious, when asked if religious organisations should be able to discriminate against people with different views or values.

A similar number (62%) agreed religious organisations and individuals should be protected from being discriminated against because of their faith.

The poll sampled 1015 people across Australia. It comes as the government prepares to unveil its long-awaited “religious freedom” legislation.

PFLAG spokesperson Shelley Argent called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to listen to “the actual ‘quiet Australians’, those who don’t want discrimination in the name of religion.”

“Parents of LGBTIQ sons and daughters are concerned a small but vocal group of religious leaders are determined to keep our children second-class citizens,” she said.

“Our children have families who love them. They contribute to society and pay their taxes – which is more than those in the churches can say.

“This push for religious freedom is just a backlash against marriage equality. Christians in Australia are not persecuted and not likely to be. Christians have nothing to fear except fear itself.”

Argent also called for a Bill of Rights to protect everyone’s “rights and freedoms” universally.

Government wants to pass religious discrimination bill by end of the year

Attorney-General Christian Porter presented a draft plan for the laws to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and cabinet on Tuesday.

He said he expects to release the draft bill within a few weeks. On Tuesday, described the laws as “a shield” to protect, not “a sword” to attack others.

Porter said the draft bill would mirror “other anti-discrimination acts such as those already covering race, sex and aged discrimination.”

But LGBTIQ advocates have said they have been shut out of the consultation process so far.

Last Saturday, two hundred attended a Brisbane protest rally opposing LGBTIQ discrimination in the name of “religious freedom”.

PFLAG’s Shelley Argent told the rally the Ruddock religious freedom review found “little of concern” to Australians of faith.

She warned existing state and federal laws protecting LGBTIQ people must not be undermined with new legislation.

She said the “religious freedom” push was “plan B” for right-wing conservatives after the successful marriage equality vote in 2017.

“Last year a government Senator chairing a Senate inquiry told me, ‘Now who’s going to protect the Christians from the gays?’ I was appalled,” she said.

Repeal religious exemptions affecting LGBT school students and staff

Others at the rally also called for the repeal of religious exemptions affecting faith schools. The laws caused outrage last year it emerged they could be used to discriminate against LGBT students and staff.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said the laws relating to faith-based schools would be considered separately.

“Separate to this process, we have also asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to inquire into religious exemptions to discrimination laws across Australia,” he said on Tuesday.

“The ALRC inquiry is designed to ensure that legislative exemptions to discrimination based on a person’s identity are limited or removed, while also protecting the right of religious institutions to conduct their affairs in a way consistent with their religious ethos.”

The ALRC won’t give their report to the Attorney-General until April next year.

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