AUSTRALIA’S faith leaders have come out in strong opposition to the proposed reforms to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
The changes, which have been in the works for years, would require the commission to review religious freedom claims, and impose a financial penalty on those who breach their religious freedoms.
The Commission is already under increasing pressure over its response to the recent spate of hate-related attacks in Australia, with the recent killing of a Sydney man, James O’Toole, sparking a call for the commission’s powers to be scaled back.AAP/ABC Religion News Network 13The proposed changes are the first step in a sweeping overhaul of the commission, which is under the leadership of commissioner Katherine Carne.
Under the proposed changes, the commission would be required to make recommendations to parliament and to the Federal Parliament on how to implement the recommendations.
The commission would also be required, under section 31 of the Act, to give the public an opportunity to respond to any proposed changes.
The recommendations would then go to the Parliament for debate.
The proposed amendments to the AHRC act would:Require the Commission to have powers to investigate complaints of discrimination based on religious belief and/or practice and to assess whether those complaints should be investigated and/and/or acted upon;Require a written report from the Commission detailing its findings and recommendations for the purposes of the proposed legislation;Provide that a person who is not a member of a religious group would be able to apply to the Commission for exemption from a religious freedom law if they:Provide for the establishment of an independent inquiry committee;Requests that the Commission have the power to review complaints about the conduct of religious organisations;Requires the Commission, upon the request of a Commonwealth agency, to provide an independent report of the Commission’s investigation into the complaints and to make a recommendation for legislative change;Provides that a member or former member of the religious group, or an organisation that is established for religious purposes, shall not be required under this Act to provide any information in relation to its conduct.
The ACT Human Rights Commissioner’s spokesperson, Pauline Bouchard, said the commission had already made a submission to the Commonwealth Government.
“The Government has already responded to this submission and we’re in agreement with them on this point.
We look forward to the opportunity to work with the Government on these proposals,” Ms Bouchards said.”
It is the Commissioner’s duty to act on her own recommendations, and she has not done that with this proposal.”
The ACT has the lowest rate of religious freedom in the country, with only 11 per cent of people identifying as atheist or agnostic, according to the 2016 Global Religious Freedom Index.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HEROC), which is a separate body within the ACT Human Relations Commission, is responsible for ensuring that religious freedom is protected in the state.AP/AAP Religion News NETWORK 13The ACT’s Human Rights Act was introduced in 2007, but was later changed in 2015 after a complaint was lodged by a woman claiming discrimination.
“There is absolutely no need for a religious exemption for a public official, because there is no need to,” Ms Carne said.
Ms Carne also said the Commission would consider the complaint and make a decision on whether or not to consider the issue.
“We will consider the matter very carefully, but it is not something that we are looking at now,” she said.
Topics:religious-leaders,government-and-politics,australia,community-and‐society,religion-and–beliefs,community,women,sexual-offences,religious-disbelief,religious-education,aesthetics,aus,friday-eve-tuesday,act,vic source ABC News (AUSTRALia) title Australia must defend faith, not just its faith in the future, says Atheist, atheist community leader article The Australian Atheists, who are based in Perth, have called on Australians to protect their faith in a post-Christian world.
“Faith is the glue that binds our societies together and it is a vital part of our identity, the core of who we are as Australians,” Atheist President, Greg O’Brien said.
“That glue can only be breached if our society is left open to the threat of non-belief.”
The Atheist’s Australian community has grown rapidly over the past five years, with about a million people following the organization’s message.
In the last decade, the group has expanded to more than 70 states, territories and countries.
“What we’re seeing is an increasing number of people coming out as Atheists and coming out of the closet,” Mr O’Connor said.
Mr O’Brian said the Atheist community had come out against the proposed religious freedom changes, and called on other faith leaders to join them in opposing the