religious discrimination bill

Religious Discrimination Bill Shelved; Canberra Declaration Withdraws Support

10 February 2022

2.2 MINS

The Coalition’s long-awaited Religious Discrimination Bill has been shelved as the Canberra Declaration withdraws its support. Following too many compromises, the law would have done more harm than good.

The Canberra Declaration formally withdraws its support for the Religious Discrimination Bill. Our decision comes as the Coalition government has in any case decided to shelve the bill after a marathon sitting in the Lower House overnight and initial plans earlier today to debate it in the Senate.

Even before last night’s session, the legislation had already been severely watered down. Additionally, in response to the Citipointe controversy last week, the Prime Minister had all but abandoned Christian schools’ right to hire staff and enrol students in alignment with their beliefs.

Key Protections for Religious Schools Erased

In order to secure the threadbare protections in the bill, five dissenting Coalition members voted with Labor to remove Section 38(3) from the Sex Discrimination Act. Were the Senate to go ahead and approve this dreadful compromise, religious schools would lose their most important protections in Federal law.

As explained by the National Civic Council — which also no longer supports the iced bill — without those longstanding SDA protections:

  • schools will be forced to accept students and staff regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, even if students, teachers or parents actively campaigned against the school’s religious beliefs;
  • a school will have very limited capacity to protect the sex-based rights of biological female students should a male student who identifies as female insist on accessing female toilets, showers, change rooms and sports.

Support Withdrawn By Other Christian Organisations

The compromises were made in the wake of Scott Morrison’s vow to stop religious schools expelling gay students. Sadly, the Prime Minister made this promise in response to an obvious straw man: no religious school in Australia has expelled a student for being gay and none have indicated their desire to do so.

The Australian Christian Lobby has also withdrawn its support of the legislation. ACL National Director for politics Wendy Francis said in a statement that, if passed, these changes would “do more harm than good”. She continued:

Taking away protections for Christian schools is a price too high to pay for the passage of the Religious Discrimination Bill. The amendments voted on by Labor, independents and these Liberal MPs unnecessarily interfere with the operation of faith-based schools. With the amendments so damaging to religious freedom, the government should immediately withdraw the Bills.

Looking Ahead to the Federal Election

The Canberra Declaration notes its longtime support for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose surprise election was owing in large part to the Labor party’s abandonment of Aussies of faith.

By leaving the Religious Discrimination Bill to the eleventh hour, and conceding too many dishonest media talking points about the goals of the bill, Morrison enters election season with mixed support from a key demographic that helped him to victory in 2019.

The Canberra Declaration continues to pray for the Prime Minister and invites Christians to intercede for the government and for religious freedom in Australia during the upcoming National Day of Prayer and Fasting (NDOPF).

The NDOPF will take place on Saturday 26th February. The theme for 2022 is ‘Purity in Christ’, taking as its text Psalm 51:10 – “Create in me a pure heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Find out more about the NDOPF here.

Image by Sky News (Getty).

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One Comment

  1. David Doyle 11 February 2022 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Glad you and ACL have withdrawn your support.
    Very disappointed with the PM over this and many other stances he has taken during his Prime Ministership. My wife and I, who supported the PM and liberal party to Government, will be voting for honest, upright and trustworthy persons in alternative parties or independents.

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