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The power of employers to punish people who make potentially offensive religious statements outside work hours is emerging as a deal-breaker for Christian conservatives in the lead-up to the Morrison government unveiling the final version of a religious discrimination bill. Australian Christian Lobby managing director Martyn Iles is calling on Attorney-General Michaelia Cash to retain protections for religious employees, known as the “Folau clause”, after she signalled that the final bill will be a traditional, limited piece of anti-discrimination legislation. But LGBTI rights advocates are opposed to the proposal, which they call a “no consequences for conduct” clause, and want the Attorney-General to ensure employers will be allowed to ensure homophobia will not be tolerated in workplaces.

Mr Iles said that keeping protections for workers outside employment hours was an issue for religious leaders. He warned Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Senator Cash not to backtrack in the final draft.  “The faith leaders are agreed that the Religious Discrimination Bill must provide meaningful protection for people of faith. In particular, that employers will not be able to police the religious speech of employees on the employees’ own time,” he said. “Christian Porter’s first two drafts contained this protection. We expect that the Prime Minister and Attorney-General will not walk back from this”. The right of employees to make religious statements outside work has been labelled the “Folau clause” after the rugby star Israel Folau, who was pushed out by Rugby Australia for an Instagram post claiming gay people go to hell.

Under the clause, businesses making more than $50m have to prove a person’s religious statement would cause financial harm to the company before taking action against the individual. The clause has earned the ire of moderate Liberal MPs who say they will not support a religious discrimination bill that veers outside traditional anti-discrimination legislation and removes rights from gay people won in the 2017 introduction of same-sex marriage. Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown, the leader of the nation’s biggest LGBTI rights group, said she hoped Senator Cash’s recent comments were a sign the Morrison government was beginning to listen to the LGBTI community’s concerns.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby