Why these faith groups want the religious discrimination bill delayed


equal voices reverend jo inkpin religious discrimination
Photo: Jordan Hirst

LGBTIQ faith group Equal Voices has called for the Morrison Government’s controversial religious discrimination laws to be delayed to allow more consultation.

Attorney General Christian Porter finally unveiled a draft government’s proposed religious discrimination legislation on Thursday. But LGBTIQ advocates slammed the draft bill for going too far.

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Equal Voices is an Australia-wide network of LGBTIQ Christians and allies.

On Friday, Equal Voices spokesperson Reverend Dr Josephine Inkpin (pictured) said the government must “significantly expand” the time for consultation on the bill.

“We request a delay in the introduction of any legislation until the middle of next year at the earliest,” she said.

“As far as we know, there has not been any consultation in drafting this legislation with LGBTIAQ+ groups or LGBTIAQ+ communities of faith.”

This was despite the legislation “clearly appearing to be aimed at the LGBTIAQ+ community” following the passage of marriage equality in 2017.

“The Attorney-General has not been able, in our view, to adequately demonstrate the need for such legislation,” Rev Inkpin said.

“Nor is there justification for this last-minute speed, especially given the serious lack of consultation.

“The Liberal-National Coalition Government has already put the LGBTIAQ+ community through significant pain and anguish as a result of its unnecessary and extended postal survey process.”

She said the new religion laws would have a “much more pervasive impact” than the postal survey and hadn’t been subject to meaningful consultation.

Rev Inkpin said the government had still failed to address the issue of religious exemptions permitting students and teachers to be excluded from faiths schools because of their sexuality.

A report by the Australian Law Reform Commission into those laws isn’t due until April next year.

“In rushing this legislation through, the Government has failed to address this issue… In 2018, this was a first-order urgent issue,” she said.

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“This crucially important matter has been deferred until after this legislation has been passed, leaving LGBTIAQ+ students and teachers at risk.”

Rev Inkpin said it was Equal Voices’ view was that existing privileges to religious organisations should be removed rather than expanded.

Uniting Network says there’s ‘no need’ for religious discrimination legislation

Uniting Network, the LGBTIQ network within the Uniting Church of Australia, also criticised the short period given by the government to respond to the draft bills.

The group’s co-convenor Rev Peter Weeks said it’s his group’s view believe the legislation is unnecessary.

“It is our view that there is no need or demonstrable evidence for new religious freedom legislation,” he said.

“It is our position that existing legislation that permits discrimination against LGBTIQ people in religious organisations is not only wrong but not theologically sustainable.”

Rev Weeks said the Coalition “put the LGBTIQ community through an unnecessary and vitriolic” postal survey campaign. He also said the Ruddock review was “held in secret, and the final report withheld from the community for an extended period.”

“During the development of these proposed pieces of legislation, there has been extensive consultations with communities of faith in developing these drafts,” he said.

“However there has been no consultation with the LGBTIQ community, who are the clear targets of these [bills].

“There is just over a month for the community to comment on the exposure drafts which are extensive and their implication to the LGBTIQ community potentially severe.”

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