Canberra, Dec 7: Australian religious leaders have joined forces to urge Prime Minister Scott Morrison to make the implementation of a Religious Discrimination Act a priority.
In a joint statement on Monday, the leaders from the Catholic, Anglican and Islamic communities said that work on religious freedom laws should be at the top of the government’s political agenda in 2021, reports Xinhua news agency.
Morrison’s election promise to legislate protections for faith-based businesses have been stalled as a result of Australia’s bushfire crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.
The proposed laws would protect a person from being discriminated against because of their religious beliefs and make it so that statements of religious belief would not violate other discrimination laws.
Attorney-General Christian Porter delayed the Australian Law Reform Commission’s review of the proposed legislation at the start of nationwide coronavirus restrictions in March.
Glenn Davies, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, said that the delays had to stop.
“A religious discrimination bill is long overdue, and the federal government should make this a priority as soon as the parliament returns to normal operations,” he told News Corp Australia.
The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, said that the pandemic has proved that governments around the country were “ignorant” in their approach to religious communities.
“I’m puzzled as to where this is going now. Matters of religious freedoms and protections are things that need to be grappled with by both major parties,” he said.
“The time of Covid has shown at the level of parliaments, the level of the public service, there is significant ignorance around religious life.
“A number of decisions made in a number of states are some examples of that growing ignorance,” the Archbishop added.