Federal protections needed, say church leaders

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Parliament House in Canberra. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia are among 25 faith leaders who have released a statement ahead of the anticipated release of the latest draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill.

In the statement, the faith leaders, including Australian Church president Pastor Terry Johnson and Adventist Schools Australia national director Dr Daryl Murdoch, expressed their gratitude for the government’s extensive consultation on the bill, which is expected to be debated in parliament tomorrow (November 23).

“This consultation is appropriate, given that any such bill will necessarily have a significant effect upon people of faith and the religious bodies and organisations which they have established,” the statement said.

Protections against religious discrimination at a federal level are “long overdue”, according to the statement:  “. . . federally there is at present little if any legislative protection against discrimination directed at a person based on their religious identity and belief, and there are inconsistencies in the manner in which states and territories have addressed the issue, if at all.

“This is in contrast to the existence of federal legislation which protects against discrimination based on certain other attributes.”

The bill was promised by prime minister Scott Morrison at the 2019 election and builds on the 2018 religious freedom review conducted by former attorney general Philip Ruddock.

Pastor Michael Worker, director of religious liberty and public affairs for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia, urged church members to pray over the issue.

“Please pray for our nation and our nation’s leaders as they come together to debate the bill,” he said, “that we will continue to be a peaceful and tolerant society where everyone works together for the common good.  It is important that Australia continues to thrive as a modern pluralistic society where basic human rights are fairly and reasonably balanced.”