religious discrimination

Shadow Attorney–General Slams Labor’s Religious Discrimination Bill

19 April 2024


Liberal Senator and Shadow Attorney–General Michaelia Cash has called out the Government’s “farcical handling” of religious discrimination.

Liberal Senator for WA Michaelia Cash has taken aim at the Federal Labor Government.

Writing in The West Australian on Tuesday, she labelled its handling of the proposed religious discrimination bill as “farcical”.

Continued Delay on Religious Discrimination Bill

Labor promised to bring in a religious discrimination bill at the last federal election. The stated intent was to make discriminating against a person based on religion illegal.

Since then, Albanese has backtracked on this promise. On 19 March 2024, he announced that he would not seek to pass a religious discrimination bill without the support of the Coalition. (For reasons outlined below, this requirement is a good thing.)

Then the Prime Minister changed his mind a week later. On 26 March 2024, he stated he was open to working with the Greens. Christians should be horrified.

It’s an offer Greens Senator David Shoebridge is ready to accept. Shoebridge urged Albanese “and his team to join with the Greens” in passing the legislation.

The Greens are eager to ensure that Christian schools and churches cannot operate according to their faith. This has nothing to do with the party having a warm fuzzy place in their heart for Christians who take the Bible seriously.

As Sky News host Liz Storer put it, “The exact same people who insist that you must tolerate, accept, even celebrate their way of life are hellbent on destroying yours. They hate you for yours.”

“And they will go out of their way to make it unlawful for you to live it out. And I am talking about your government.”

“How many times do we have to see the noose tightening around our necks? How much more of a joke can it possibly become when we’ve got the Labor party talking about buddying up with the Greens to ensure religious freedom, which would be anything but?”

Grave Concerns with Labor’s Religious Discrimination Bill

Michaelia Cash is well aware of the challenges the proposed bill causes Christians. She has seen the proposed bill – but under strict conditions that she does not disclose its contents publicly.

“This”, she says, “is just a part of the whole farce”.

“Some faith groups have been given the opportunity to view limited parts of the legislation, or to undertake a limited ‘page-turn’ of the Government’s proposals, subject to time constraints and strict obligations that they do not discuss or distribute the proposed changes.”

“Others have not been included in the Government’s so-called consultation process”.

It is this strange and secretive scheme that sees Cash seeing red.

To begin rectifying this wrong, at the very least, “Attorney-General Dreyfus should immediately release the draft legislation for everyone to see.”

Four Problems with the Religious Discrimination Bill

Cash correctly understands that the proposed changes will affect Christian schools and churches. This is, as Mark Powell put it, “a gathering storm… and it’s about to break not only upon Christian churches and their schools, but also any private individuals.”

Labor’s religious discrimination bill will deeply affect all Christians. “We are talking about using the law to change the way religious schools and religious bodies operate”, Cash writes.

She identifies four key issues that are repeatedly raised with her.

1. The Ability to Maintain the Ethos and Values of Religious Schools

Currently, private Christian schools are allowed to preference employment candidates who hold to their particular strand or denomination of Christianity. Catholic schools, for example, can favour Catholic teachers.

Sound controversial?

According to the government, it is.

“Under Queensland law, it may soon be unlawful for a Catholic school to express a preference for employing Catholics”, states Cash.

“Hundreds of thousands of Australian families choose to educate their children in faith-based schools. Those families do so, at least in part, because of the values of the school community, and their choices ought to be respected.”

The instance by some that a Christian school should be a school and not Christian raises this rhetorical question. “What does this do to a school that is trying to build a community based on shared religious values, and to ensure that teachers model these values for students?”

2. The Possibility of Lawsuits against Individual Christians

If passed, the religious discrimination bill would see religious discrimination drastically increase.

Christian ministers, while giving a message or sermon, could be sued if their message goes against current secular beliefs about sexuality and gender.

Cash raises the very serious question “whether the law could be used to force religious leaders to change the way they explain their beliefs in places of worship.”

“Could a priest be sued for the way they explain church doctrines from the pulpit?”

This is not a ridiculous question. It’s a sad indication of how secular, and even anti-Christian, Australia has become.

No longer can Christians meet to teach the Bible as they see fit. The State wishes to police, by their assumed standard of objective morality, what Christians can and cannot believe and say.

This is exactly why the separation of church and state was established. It was not set up to prevent Christians from living out their faith in the public square. It was established to prevent government overreach into the affairs of the Church.

How could it be otherwise? The separation of church and state was championed largely by Christians at times when the vast majority of the population were Christians.

At the time of Federation, for example, some 95% of the Australian population attended Christian churches. The populace – and those insisting on this separation of powers – weren’t thinking like secular humanists back then.

3. The Ability of Christian Schools to Expect Christian Conduct and Behaviour

Under the proposed bill, secular views of sexuality and gender, much of which became fashionable only five minutes ago, are the orthodox truth that must be upheld.

Christian schools will be stripped of their right to disagree. They will no longer be able to require staff to teach Christian views. Nor will they be able to expect students to respect and understand them.

This creates the impossibility, as Cash notes, that “a school [can] ensure staff conduct… adhere[s] to the school’s ethos and mission”.

4. Schools and Churches Will Need to Pay Court Costs

If the religious discrimination bill passes, Christian schools will need to prove that requiring a Christian staff member or someone with particular adherence to a biblical belief is “reasonable”.

And how will ‘reasonable’ be determined?

Most likely, by the courts.

As Cash says, “all these risks are magnified by the Government’s Costs Protection Bill, which is currently before the Senate.”

“This Bill would mean that in almost all cases schools would have to pay significant legal costs when cases are brought against them.”

“For these schools, every dollar that is spent fighting cases in court is a dollar not spent educating a child. Schools want to educate, not litigate.”

It is for these reasons and more that the Association of Christian Schools says, “Christian education as we know it will cease to exist”.

Will the Coalition Make Good on Their Promise?

Federal Labor intends to take Christians backwards in their ability to live out and pass on their faith.

Does the Coalition offer a positive approach? Cash is insistent it does.

“Notwithstanding their shambolic handling of the issue, we will work in good faith to try to ensure that any package put before the Parliament is one that takes Australians of faith forwards, and not backwards.”

These are very welcome words.

Parliament is in a better place because of members such as Senator Cash.

But the Coalition has previously promised to implement religious freedom legislation – since 2017. Yet it failed miserably to do so whilst in government.

Would it succeed a second time around?


Photo by Michaelia Cash/Facebook.

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  1. Warwick Marsh 19 April 2024 at 5:32 am - Reply

    Great article!!!!!!

  2. Jim Twelves 19 April 2024 at 8:23 am - Reply

    Sam, thank you so much for bringing this so clearly to our attention. I am not sure how our society works, but my instinct tells me that if ‘all’ the families, in ‘all’ the faith filled churches, synagogues and mosques, and ‘all’ the faith based schools in our land were to ‘disregard’ any so called ‘control’ of our freedoms, the so called ‘controls’ would have no effect. We simply need to have the ‘courage of our convictions’ and ignore this monstrous attempt at a sociological coup. I have a funny feeling some people of faith might take a stand!

    • Pauline Tondl 19 April 2024 at 10:08 am - Reply

      Great call, Jim.
      Group resistance to draconian dominance looks more attractive by the day.

      I have one gripe with Sam’s article though : Sam mentioned the very real issue of retaining the “ethos and values” of Christian (and presumably other faith-based) schools … without being specific as to what exactly those values and ethos are.

      Jesus said : I am the Way and the TRUTH and the Life. John 14:6
      If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. THEN YOU WILL KNOW THE TRUTH AND THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE. John 8:31 & 32

      Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”
      Whoever WANTS to know what truth is, can find out with a bit of searching.

      It is TRUTH that is hated, because it exposes lies (popularly called mis-truths).

      Jesus’s claim to KNOW what truth is, and to BE truth, are what are REALLY hated by the anti-Christian mindset. They don’t want plain obvious biological truth. So they don’t want Jesus or His followers.

      If they DID want truth, they wouldn’t pursue the immoral choices they make. And they wouldn’t DEMAND that everyone else not only accepts, but supports and even promotes THEIR immoral choices – which go against truth.

      Jesus also said in John 3:19 & 20
      This is the verdict.
      Light has come into the world,
      But men loved darkness instead of light
      Because their deeds were (are) evil.
      Everyone who does evil
      And WILL NOT come into the light
      For fear that their deeds will be exposed.

      Interestingly, Jesus completed that bold statement with this :
      But whoever lives by the TRUTH
      Comes into the light
      So that it may be plainly seen
      That what he has done
      Has been done through God.

      Bible-based VALUES are based on truth.
      That’s the problem “they” have with “us”.
      Our “values and ethos” expose their denial of truth, and the evil that they love and practice.

      Let’s grow in boldness to call a spade a spade. Etc.

    • Christine Crawford 19 April 2024 at 10:39 am - Reply


  3. Trina Watson 19 April 2024 at 10:37 am - Reply

    Amen to that Pauline! Very plainly and well said! It’s true that people hate the truth and sadly, choose to live bound by a lie!

  4. Paula Hartwich 20 April 2024 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Excellent article Sam! Well said.

  5. Joshua M 21 April 2024 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    5. Private entities have a right to freedom of expression too.

    Attacking a schools right to freedom of religion / freedom of speech is right what the Canberra declaration is about. By weakening entities right to free expression, we are weakening expression itself.

    This isn’t just government bossing around educators – this is government imposing allowable and disallowance speech.

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