Canberra, Australia, Oct 22, 2019 / 14:18 pm
A hearing of the Australian Senate was told Tuesday that the government had narrowed the purview of an independent inquiry into the effect of anti-discrimination laws on religious schools and organizations.
The government had asked the Australian Law Reform Commission in April to report on how to balance competing claims of religious freedom rights and LGBT rights. In recent years, Australia has seen debate over religious freedom with respect to the seal of the confessional, hiring decisions, and same-sex marriage.
Sarah Derrington, president of the ALRC, told a Senate hearing Oct. 22 that the government had in August limited the commission's field of inquiry and delayed its report.
“The terms of reference as originally drafted were quite narrow in any event but they are narrower again,” she said, according to the AAP.
The ALRC was to have published a discussion paper on its findings in November, but the government directed that it be pushed back at least eight months.
It was also told to confine its recommendation to laws other than the religious discrimination bill, and ensure that legislation on sex discrimination and employment are consistent with the bill.
Derrington said that as a result, she has paused the commission's inquiry.
The religious discrimination bill is intended make it unlawful to discriminate against people on the ground of their religious belief or activity; establish a religious freedom commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission; and amend existing laws regarding religious freedom, including marriage and charities law, and objects clauses in anti-discrimination law.