Olympic champion Ian Thorpe has joined other public figures in a video slamming the Morrison government’s contentious religious freedom bill.
Thorpe is joined by comedian Benjamin Law and basketballer Lauren Jackson – as well as a host of other Australians – in the video, released by LGBTQI+ advocacy group Equality Australia on Friday (December 13).
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter released a rejigged version of the legislation last week, with Mr Morrison declaring it “a bill for all Australians”.
It aims to protect religious expression from being discriminated against – and will allow charities, hospitals and aged care homes to hire and fire staff based on their faith.
But Thorpe said the legislation “threatens to divide our community”.
“[It will] give people a licence to discriminate,” he says in the video.
Tell your MP that our laws need to protect all of us, equally. Tell them that you oppose the Religious Discrimination Bill. https://equalityaustralia.org.au/no-to-discrimination/
Posted by Equality Australia on Thursday, December 12, 2019
Jackson said “the bill would mean we’re less protected under the law. It will leave us all vulnerable”, while Law warns that “what constitutes discrimination today will be considered OK tomorrow”.
“It will take away your rights at work, at school and in hospitals when people say offensive things,” he says.
Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown said the legislation would allow religious organisations to discriminate against others with different or no belief.
“A double standard exists in the Religious Discrimination Bill – privileging religious institutions to the detriment of Australians who hold different beliefs, or no religious belief at all – in employment, education settings, and in the provision of goods and services,” she said.
“Australians who don’t hold religious views, or disagree with the religious views held by others will have less protections under the law.”
Ms Brown said the government must ensure its changes did not roll back existing rights for all Australians under the guise of religious freedom.
“The bill introduces an unprecedented, radical test to determine whether discrimination against people of different beliefs can be justified,” she said.
“A person who agrees with you should not be determining whether the harmful statement you made comprises a religious belief.”
Business and community groups also remain deeply unimpressed with the proposed legislation, despite the changes released last week.
The Australian Medical Association has said doctors can have their own beliefs and values, but they should never affect a patient’s access to care.
Last week, Catholic charity St Vincent de Paul urged the federal government to leave it out of debate around the laws. It came after Mr Porter referred to Vinnies three times during a media conference to explain how the legislation had been broadened.