Government delays religious freedom bill until after election

But launches inquiry into anti-discrimination laws

The Federal Government has announced a 12-month inquiry into religious exemptions for anti-discrimination legislation – and has also confirmed a religious freedom bill will not surface before the election.

Attorney-General Christian Porter told The Australian that the Morrison Government’s response to last year’s Ruddock Expert Panel on Religious Freedom report was progressing but was not yet ready.

“It remains clear government policy and, if re-elected, one of the first orders of business would be to pursue that legislation,” Porter said to The Australian about the proposal to put forward a bill, as well as to appoint a freedom-of-religion commissioner to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Marriage, schools and other faith-based bodies are the expected to be the focus.

The 12-month inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) will focus on what religious exemptions might be made within anti-discrimination laws, at national and state levels. Marriage, schools and other faith-based bodies are the expected to be the focus, including the inflammatory issue about religious schools possibly expelling LGBTQI students or teachers (due to their personal identification).

Fowler Charity Law director and religious freedom campaigner Mark Fowler commented: “The [ALRC inquiry] can be seen as the culmination of long-running calls from religious bodies to replace the existing religious exemptions with a positive right to act.

“It can also be seen as a response to concerns raised during the marriage campaign concerning infringements on freedom of speech.”

The ALRC inquiry will present its findings by April next year.