Proposed religious anti-discrimination laws to heighten bigotry in business, lawyer says - Lawyers Weekly

A Melbourne-based employment lawyer says plans to safeguard religious freedom through the introduction of new laws have the potential to alienate minority groups should these laws come into effect.

McDonald Murholme managing director Alan McDonald says Attorney-General Christian Porter’s plans to introduce a religious freedom act will create challenges within Australian businesses, noting that such laws will be difficult for employers to navigate.

“People [who] exercise the freedom to practice religion have historically caused disputes with other groups, plus there has been a movement to promote tolerance,” Mr McDonald said, noting that the proposed laws will give those with strong religious beliefs “a licence to harass those who do not share those beliefs”.

“Allowing people to sue others, alleging religious discrimination in an otherwise tolerant society, could create first-world litigation to solve a first-world problem.

“Too often, an organised religion can harbour undesirable bigotry, which we may not want to protect through preventing others exercising well-founded and discerning discrimination against bigotry.

“Litigation is generally a luxury for the well-off, so the less well-off are not to be fooled into wanting to cause outrage about potentially bigoted matters.”

Furthermore, Mr McDonald said there is already legislation in place to protect religious freedom, at least in the workplace.

“The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) already provides very strong protections against religious discrimination, where it matters most, the workplace, where people need to earn a living,” he said.

“The General Protections under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) is already under threat by the Australian Mines and Metals Association as proposed by its chief executive, Steve Knott.”

Reference: ‘Proposed religious anti-discrimination laws to heighten bigotry in business, lawyer says’, Lawyers Weekly, Thursday 18th July 2019.