Ruddock Report summary and responses (Part 2)

“Following my previous post giving comments on Recommendations 1, 5-8 and 15 of the Ruddock Report and the Government Response, I will comment here on another set of recommendations (Recs 2-4, 9-12) and the likely outcome. Comments on recommendations 13-14, and 16-20, will (hopefully) be made in Part 3! …”

– More from Neil Foster at Law and Religion Australia.

The Ruddock Report has landed! (Part 1)

“The long-awaited Religious Freedom Review: Report of the Expert Panel (chaired by the Hon Philip Ruddock) has now been released publicly, along with the formal Government Response.

After the prior leaking of its 20 recommendations there were no major surprises as to the final conclusion, but there is much interesting background to the recommendations (and in one or two cases the full Report seems to have a significant impact on how one should read the language of the recommendations.) It is also important to see the announced intentions of the LNP Government as to how they will respond.

In this first post in response to the full Report I will comment mainly on recommendations 1 & 5-8 and recommendation 15, with the other recommendations to be left for part 2 or later. …”

– Neil Foster provides his first response, at Law and Religion Australia.

Archbishop Glenn Davies’ response to the release of the Ruddock Report

Anglican Diocese of Sydney Media Statement

13 December 2018

We are grateful the Ruddock report has finally been released and view it as the start of an urgent process to frame appropriate legislation for religious freedom. This should be a bipartisan issue since it involves the harmony of our entire community, not just the more than 60 percent of Australians who identify with religious faith.

Dr Glenn Davies
Archbishop of Sydney.

Source: SydneyAnglicans.net.

Debate to be resumed on Sex Discrimination Act amendments on Wednesday morning

“Despite the deferral on Monday of a Bill introduced in the Senate to amend balancing clauses applying to religious bodies in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), the Bill has now been rescheduled for debate in the Senate on Wednesday, December 5, between 11am and 12:35pm.

The Senate Notice Paper for December 5 contains the following entry, listed for 11 am …”

– Associate Professor Neil Foster has the latest. (Emphasis added)

Result of Senate debate on amendments to SDA

“A brief update on Parliamentary developments. The Senate debate on the ALP-sponsored Bill to amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 took place today. While initially the Bill had been subject to a tight time limit which meant it would have passed today if not actually voted down, at the last minute a Government motion amended this arrangement. The result is as follows:

Debate on this bill will continue at a later date.

It seems that the bill [reportedly identical is likely to be referred for consideration to a committee, and the debate will presumably be picked up in the New Year.

There was a similar Bill, however, introduced into the House of Representatives this morning by the Leader of the Opposition. At the moment it is not clear whether this Bill will be debated again this week. More updates will be provided when more is known.”

– Thanks to Assoc-Professor Neil Foster for this update.

Photo: Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Shorten, who has introduced a similar Bill into the House of Representatives.

Contacting Parliament on sex discrimination amendments

“A number of Christian and other religious organisations are deeply concerned about the proposals in the ALP-sponsored private Bill due to be debated in the Senate on Monday Dec 3. As I have discussed in previous comments (here and here) the Bill, which started out as an agreed measure to stop religious schools from expelling gay students on the basis of their “orientation” alone, has a number of other serious consequences for religious freedom, not only for schools but for churches, mosques, synagogues and other religious organisations (such as, for example, University student ministries.)

The Bill amends the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to remove some clauses which have previously provided protection for Christian organisations to operate in accordance with their religious beliefs. …

I have been asked how concerned citizens can contact their Parliamentary representatives. …”

Associate Professor Neil Foster shares some points you might make to your Parliamentary representatives. (Emphasis added.)

Why Australian Religious Freedom is under legal threat

“Religious Freedom in Australia is under immediate legal threat.

A new bill introduced into the Senate last week (due to be debated this Monday, December 3rd) will, if passed unamended, severely erode Religious Freedom in our land. Especially for religious schools. …”

At the Gospel Coalition AustraliaAkos Balogh urges Christians to pray and act, and explains why.

Government amendments to religious schools bill

“For those following the debates about proposed amendments to discrimination laws removing religious freedom from faith-based schools, the LNP Government has now tabled a number of amendments to the ALP Bill released earlier this week.

While these amendments are a move in the right direction, there are still some serious concerns about their effect on religious schools and their ability to operate in accordance with their religious beliefs. …”

– Associate Professor Neil Foster continues his coverage of the debates about religious freedom in Australia, at Law and Religion Australia.

ALP Bill on religious schools and students

“Senator Wong, leader of the Opposition in the Senate, has introduced a Private Senator’s Bill aimed at removing the power of religious schools to discriminate against same sex attracted students.

Unfortunately, the amendments do much more than stop schools expelling students on the basis of their internal sexual orientation (a goal all sides of politics agree on.) They will have a serious impact on the ability of such schools, and other religious bodies, to operate in accordance with their religious beliefs. A more nuanced approach is needed. …

Despite the assurances offered in the Explanatory Memorandum, I think there is a real danger that the amendments made by this Bill will seriously impair the religious freedom of faith-based schools, and more legislative clarification is required to avoid this outcome. As noted below, it will also have an impact on other institutions.”

– Associate Professor Neil Foster tracks the latest twists and turns in the religious freedom issue – at Law and Religion Australia.

Senate Inquiry into ‘Legislative Exemptions’ reports

“The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee (“LCAR Committee”) has now handed down its report into Legislative exemptions that allow faith-based educational institutions to discriminate against students, teachers and staff.

The inquiry has been incredibly short – the motion referring the topic was only passed on 13 November.

As expected (due to the preponderance of ALP and Greens committee members) the report recommends complete removal of religious freedom protections for faith-based schools relating to how those schools deal with same-sex attracted students. There is a strong dissenting report from Coalition Senators.

In my view the majority report would seriously impair the right of faith-based schools to operate in accordance with their religious ethos, and should be rejected by those considering changes to the law. …

… without reading the contents of the Ruddock Report, the Committee recommends two of its recommendations be rejected out of hand. …

I can’t help but also register my dissent from the Committee’s apparent preference for the ‘Tasmanian’ model of discrimination law …

I recommend a careful reading of the minority report, which is (in terms of page length) of comparable size to the majority, and in my respectful opinion, provides a much more persuasive analysis than the majority.”

– Neil Foster, Associate Professor in Law, takes a look at the Senate Report on ‘Legislative exemptions’.

He notes that, while the recommendations of the Ruddock Report on religious freedom were leaked prior to a recent by-election, the Ruddock Report itself has not yet been released.

Read his full comments at Law and Religion Australia.

Delaying religious freedom legislation comes with a major cost

Here’s a media release from the Australian Christian Lobby –

The Australian Christian Lobby today warned that the radical amendments which passed Tasmania’s lower house last night will mean freedom of speech is now all but dead.

ACL’s state director Mark Brown said, “The changes pushed by Labor and the Greens mean that gender will become opt-in for all Tasmanian’s – a move which 95% of 44,000 respondents to a news poll did not agree with.”

“There has been no community consultation and these amendments have been rammed through without any consideration of the unintended consequences they may have,” commented Mr Brown.

One of the amendments pushed by Labor and the Greens changes the definition of gender identity in the Anti-Discrimination Act to include gender expression which means, “…any personal physical expression, appearance (whether by way of medical intervention or not), speech, mannerisms, behavioural patterns, names and personal references that manifest or express gender or gender identity.”  

Managing director of the ACL Martyn Iles said, “Prohibiting speech that ‘offends’ or ‘insults’ based on gender expression opens a Pandora’s box. Gender expression includes any behaviour whatsoever if justified by reference to one of the infinite genders people have invented. It is unenforceable madness enshrined in law, which will be abused constantly.”

“Failing to use someone’s preferred pronouns will also be hate speech if these laws pass the upper house.”

“There was an opportunity for Parliament to repeal the section 17 hate speech law last year, but they baulked at the idea because the politics seemed too difficult at the time. Now we see it being weaponised even further.”

“We are now in a position where laws preventing and removing democratic freedoms are being pushed through parliaments across the country while legislation to protect religious freedom has stagnated.”

“This shows the increasing and compounding cost associated with the government delaying action on religious freedom in Australia,” said Mr Iles.

Source. Emphasis added.

“White” on the new black-list

“A popular wedding magazine called ‘White’ has announced today that it is closing down. The reason? The Christian publishers had been asked to carry articles featuring same sex weddings, and had politely declined to do so.

The backlash on social media led to a number of advertisers withdrawing their custom, and some customers refusing to buy the magazine any more. In this post I want to comment on the legal issues around this incident, and another episode highlighted in the press today.

A report in The Australian today notes the close of White magazine, and also the other episode involving someone in the ‘wedding industry’:

Christian wedding photographer Jason Tey was taken to the West Australian Equal Opportunity Commission after he agreed to photograph the children of a same-sex couple but disclosed a conflict of belief, in case they felt more comfortable hiring someone else. …”

– Associate Professor Neil Foster comments on a story in today’s The Weekend Australian.

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