Nearly two-thirds of Australians support legal protections for religious institutions and protections for workers making statements of faith outside office hours, as Scott Morrison faces pressure to deliver a promised religious discrimination act before the next election. A poll of 1003 people commissioned by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) also showed majority support for religious hospitals having the right to refuse to perform abortions and euthanasia, and backing for religious schools to hire only staff who adhere to their beliefs. The ACL is pushing the polling to federal MPs in the lead-up to Attorney-General Michaelia Cash’s planned final draft of a religious discrimination act at the end of the year, as she signals a narrow final bill acceptable to the majority of parliament.

Polling by consumer research firm PureProfile in August and early September found 65 per cent of respondents wanted legal protections for people of faith, with ACL managing director Martyn Iles saying religious freedoms would be an election issue unless the major parties made significant changes. “For all the noise, for the genuine and contrived complexity, there are some fundamental truths. First, a promise was made. Both the Coalition and the Labor Party are committed to providing protections for Australians of faith,” he said. “Second, the Australian public are onside. “They share the aspirations of faith-based Australians to express their faith, on their own time, without fear of discipline at work. For many, this is an issue that will inform their vote at the next election.”

The PureProfile poll found 71 per cent of respondents supported curtailing the power of employers to discipline workers who made statements of faith outside work hours.The ACL will use this result to push Senator Cash to keep the so-called “Folau clause” in the final religious discrimination bill, despite strong opposition from both moderate Liberal MPs and LGBTI rights groups. Under the clause, named after rugby player Israel Folau, who was dismissed by Rugby Australia in 2019 for saying gay people go to hell in an Instagram post, 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 ACL poll found 60 per cent of respondents supported schools’ rights to not employ staff “in conflict” with their religious beliefs. Recently the Andrews Labor government in Victoria unveiled new laws to stop religious schools from firing teachers for being gay. The poll also reported 55 per cent of respondents supported religious hospitals refusing to carry out operations that went against their faith, in the wake of the passage of assisted dying laws through Queensland’s parliament.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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