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MPs must reject religious discrimination bill to protect most vulnerable
People in poverty forced to interact with religious organisations for housing, care and ‘mutual’ obligations are heavily discriminated against and will be further harmed by this bill.
The Antipoverty Centre calls on MPs from all parties to block the passage of the religious discrimination bill coming before parliament this sitting fortnight.
People living in poverty are at greater risk of being subjected to discrimination based on their age, ethnicity, disabilities, gender identity or sexual orientation. The Centre for Social Impact found that 26% of people receiving homelessness or housing services were discriminated against in a report published today. The Antipoverty Centre is aware of many reports of people in the jobactive and Disability Employment Services programs experiencing harm in religious organisations they are forced to interact with, particularly in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation.1
The extent to which governments across this continent have outsourced their responsibilities and policing of welfare recipients to religious charities makes these laws all the more violent as we have no choice but to continue interacting with organisations that harm us. There is no transparency or accountability.
While some organisations may implement policies to prevent discrimination, it does not stop individuals from discriminating with impunity under the law.
The right to make “statements of belief” will harm the queer community the most who deserve equal access and equitable treatment in all services.2 Members of this community are also more likely to experience mental ill health than the general population.3 This is a subject that should not be up for debate – lives depend on it.
Quotes attributable to Jay Coonan from the Antipoverty Centre:
The government is enabling discrimination that will further entrench people in poverty by allowing the very people who are supposed to help us cause further harm and distress, simply because we need to access support.
We are extremely worried that the changes will lead to a ramping up of the awful reports we already hear from people exposed to religious service providers.
We know that people who are forced to do ‘mutual’ obligations, people in social housing, people who access disability care and others living in poverty are already being harmed by religious bigotry because we have no choice but to deal with the charities the government has outsourced our care to.
This bill will only turbocharge the discrimination people already suffer and further protect the perpetrators – who hold immense power over us.
If Scott Morrison cared so much about discrimination he would address the social inequities that it creates instead of transplanting culture wars from abroad.
The Coalition’s priority is not about making our society more fair, but what they can do to embolden hateful minority views and normalise them as necessary to a debate that nobody but a small cabal in their own party asked for.
The Labor party should not enable this minority to dictate debate and be given license to impose their religious views on people seeking support.
Any MP who is about to vote for this should seriously consider the harm that they’re about to unleash on the community and what exactly they are doing this for.
Hypocritical MPs will happily march in a pride parade with a rainbow flag around their neck and claim to be there in solidarity, then turnaround and pass legislation that will discriminate against the LGBTQIA+ community.