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Australia, bill against religious discrimination: applause from the bishops

The Religious Discrimination Bill, submitted to Parliament on 23 November, aims to ensure that the fundamental human rights of Australians of all faiths and others are protected, by allowing them to express their beliefs.

Isabella Pero – Vatican City

Bill that provides “a positive expression of religious freedom” and constitutes “an important step towards equality with other anti-discrimination laws in force in Australia”: Thus, in a memorandum, Archbishop Peter Cominsole, Chair of the National Episcopal Commission on Life, Family and Public Commitment outlines “the Religious Discrimination Bill ”, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison has introduced into Parliament in recent days.

Religious discrimination is still little recognized

“Federal and state legislation on this subject – asserts the Bishop – protects Australians from discrimination in a wide range of sectors”, with the exception of sectors of “religious belief and activity”, where discrimination is “little recognized” and protections “inconsistent”. Hence, Monsignor Commonsoli’s call to the fact that “all Australian citizens, regardless of their faith or religious activity, should be able to participate fully in our society”. From this perspective, they “should enjoy the right to equal and effective legal protection”, without any discrimination “in public life”.

Everyone should have the right to express their faith

In preparation for some time, the text of the bill began its journey in 2017 and has seen several drafts over the years. The presentation to Parliament on November 23 includes “important improvements” over previous texts, Monsignor Commissoli explains, but it does not meet all of the Catholic Church’s wishes regarding the protection of religious freedom. “However – says the bishop – we believe that this bill will be an important recognition for people of a religious faith, of their right to express it and to participate in activities related to it.”

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Bipartisan support for the bill

Also central to the Australian Archbishop are the provisions of the bill protecting the possibility for religious organizations, including schools, to hire staff in accordance with their faith and values: “We want to be free to employ people for the benefit of our mission just as other organizations that are not based on faith do — the bishop repeats The value of religious organizations for individuals and society in general, in fact, lies in their religious message and their ability to embody and pursue it.

Finally, hoping to gain “bipartisan support” for this legislative proposal, Monsignor Cominsoli urges Parliament “not to delay the passage of a law protecting the freedom of all Australians to have and express religious belief and any kind of belief”.

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