Protection of Religious Freedom through Discrimination Balancing Clauses

I am presenting a paper on this topic at the Freedom for Faith “Freedom17” conference in Canberra on Wednesday June 14. The paper is available here: Protecting Religious Freedom in Australia Through Legislative Balancing Clauses. It aims to review all the relevant clauses in discrimination laws in Australia (Commonwealth, State and Territories) which balance religious freedom with the right not to be discriminated against. (If I have missed any, please feel free to let me know!) It also reviews the relevant balancing clauses which were proposed in the Exposure Draft Bill released by the Federal Government last year as an example of how same sex marriage might be recognised. Finally, it explores circumstances in which some of the State and Territory discrimination laws might be invalid, where they provide narrower religious freedom protection than the Commonwealth law does.

Some questions the paper addresses:

  • Should it be unlawful for an employer only to employ Dr Who fans?
  • Which jurisdiction in its discrimination laws protects only “religious conviction” and not actions based on religious belief?
  • In what State might a church which declined to employ a youth worker who was living with his girlfriend be behaving unlawfully? And would Commonwealth law over-ride that State law?

I hope it will be useful for those who have to navigate these different provisions!