The Australian government is preparing to introduce the country’s first religious freedom laws, but some senior Catholic clerics are concerned they may not go far enough.
A still-confidential package for the legislation was approved by some Cabinet members in the capital, Canberra, on 20th August, with Attorney General Christian Porter indicating that there needed to be more “tweaks.”
Observers said these are likely to involve intense backroom discussions with more conservative members of the Liberal/National Party government who, like the Church, have publicly stated their concerns that the laws will not be sufficient.
“We are in favour of some (sort of) religious discrimination act, but it is important that it is a positive law, one not about exemption,” Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli told the national daily The Australian.
“We have signed up to a number of international covenants in terms of religious freedom as a basic human right. We are keen to see some way in which that might be legislated.”
A draft of the bill – which aims to mirror existing anti-discrimination laws covering race, age and disability – is expected to be released in the coming weeks, following further consultation. The Senate, where the government does not have a majority and relies on the support of independents and small parties, also will hold its own inquiry once the draft is released.
“I am close to finalising a draft bill. There is some fine-tuning now being conducted, and I expect a draft bill would be released in the next few weeks, before Parliament resumes in September,” Porter said.
Picture: Gold crucifix dramatically illuminated with black background in Florence, Tuscany, Italy. (Michael Interisano/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire).