November 2019 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

A controversial new law whose backers say will protect “religious freedom” is roiling both religious and secular leaders in Australia.

The bill, which is supported by the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison of the Liberal Party (which despite its name is center-right), is designed to extend protections to people inside and outside the workforce. It was inspired in part by an incident earlier this year where a rugby player was fired after posting religiously tinged anti-gay comments to social media.

The player, Israel Folau, was terminated after he posted a statement asserting “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters – Hell Hell awaits you.” Folau later filed a lawsuit, asserting that he was fired for expressing his religious beliefs.

Under the proposed law, large companies would be prohibited from punishing religious expression unless they can prove it would cause “unjustifiable hardship” to their business. Religious expression that incites hate would not be protected, however.

LGBTQ groups said the bill goes too far.

“These new, radical provisions go too far and hand a sword to people of faith to use their religious beliefs to attack others in our community,” Anna Brown, chief executive of Equality Australia, told The Guardian newspaper. “We must not go backwards or remove any protections from harmful behavior which have already been achieved – at great cost.”