Liberal Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz should be careful what he wishes for.
In supporting Israel Folau’s rights to share his religious views on social media, he noted that ‘workers cannot be sacked over their religious views’ in Australia.
That’s a point The Australian Tribune strongly backs.
But we’re not so sure Abetz and likeminded pollies would take the next step, which we’ve urged throughout the religious freedom debates. And that is ensuring that no one is discriminated against by any employee for their beliefs…or lack thereof.
This is particularly vital for companies receiving taxpayer dollars…including schools.
While teachers in religious schools who don’t believe in God should keep that view to themselves during school hours, as it stands most religious schools would not hire them in the first place if they didn’t claim to share the school’s belief system.
But that forces atheists and agnostics to live a lie.
Just imagine if a staff member of a religious school came out of the closet and declared on social media that, ‘There obviously is no such thing as God; no one is going to heaven or hell; open your eyes and give it a rest already; just do what you think is right.’
Will Abetz and his colleagues seek to protect their freedom of non-religion as well?
We can only hope so.
Abetz is urging the Fair Work Ombudsman and Australian Human Rights Commission to look into whether Rugby Australia breached any laws by sacking Israel Folau.
The star footballer’s contract was terminated after he posted a biblical quote on social media saying homosexuals and atheists (among others) would go to hell unless they repented.
Senator Abetz says it has long been a feature of Australia’s workplace relations system that people can’t be sacked for expressing a religious view.
‘The common understanding of the Fair Work Act from all parties is that workers cannot be sacked over their religious views,’ he said in a statement on Monday.
‘Regardless of what was said in this case, there is a fundamental principle here which must be protected.’
The senator’s call for a probe comes as religious discrimination laws appear set to be one of the first issues to come under the spotlight of the new federal parliament.
Attorney General Christian Porter said last week a draft Religious Discrimination Act was well advanced, signalling it may be introduced to parliament when it sits for the first time in July.
Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce is pushing for religious beliefs to be exempt from employment contracts.
Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally says there are people of faith who feel uncomfortable about speaking publicly.
The opposition is open to speaking with government and community about what can be done to ensure religious people can participate in respectful and civil public conversations.
‘People bring their spiritual aspects to their public conversations and it needs to be acknowledged and respected,’ Senator Keneally told ABC’s AM.
The Australian Tribune with AAP
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