PIAC’s submission discusses the current status of the human right of freedom of religion in Australia, noting that the ALRC observed that ‘Generally speaking, Australians are not constrained in the exercise of religious freedom’.
However, there is also an absence of positive protection of religious freedom in most jurisdictions. PIAC recommends that religious freedom be included as part of a comprehensive Human Rights Act, alongside other fundamental rights and freedoms, rather than legislated in isolation. PIAC also supports the inclusion of religious belief as a protected attribute in both anti-discrimination and anti-vilification laws federally, and in NSW.
Nevertheless, there are areas where the manifestation of religious belief can be limited in order to protect the human rights of others, including the right to non-discrimination. As a result, PIAC supports narrowing the religious exceptions currently found in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), including in relation to religious schools, and ensuring they do not apply when religious organisations are delivering services using public funding.
Given the inquiry was established during debate on the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017, PIAC also calls for the removal of transitional provisions allowing existing civil celebrants to nominate as ‘religious marriage celebrants’ thereby permitting them to discriminate, including against same-sex couples, and recommends that individuals and organisations providing wedding-related services should be prohibited from discriminating.