Australia The new religious discrimination bill could deter women from seeking health services
Religious discrimination bill overhauled
The Morrison government's religious discrimination laws - which are expected to go to parliament soon - have been rewritten to remove contentious clauses. However, Education Minister Alan Tudge says the religious discrimination bill will not allow a school to reject a teacher based on their sexuality or other trait. The draft bill will be presented to a joint coalition partyroom meeting in Canberra on Tuesday and could be introduced to parliament as early as Wednesday.It is understood a contentious part of the bill - known as the "Folau clause" - has been scrapped from an earlier version.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has introduced the religious discrimination bill in parliament, arguing that “faith and freedom are inseparable”.
“We have to veer away from the artificial, phoney conflicts, boycotts, controversies and cancelling created by anonymous and cowardly bots, bigots and bullies,” he said.
The bill, while watered down considerably from its first draft, presents a new problem: how it will impact women seeking health services.
Experts have warned the lack of clarity in the bill could impact safe access zones around abortion clinics and allow doctors, nurses and pharmacists to make statements stigmatising women or members of the LGBTQI+ community.
Why religious freedom bill is a culture war sugar hit — and not much more
The bill's muddying, obfuscating nature is by design — it will render discourse and dialogue more difficult in an attempt to carve out a new political flank for the right. © Provided by Crikey Israel Folau religious freedom Designed to operate at the federal level, and to override state-based employment protection and service guarantee, the bill’s confusions and contradictions are not a design flaw; they’re very much part of what’s wanted, in which the Coalition can portray itself as defending allegedly embattled religious types, despite the messiness and chaos it creates.
Much of the bill is still muddy. This morning, assistant attorney-general Amanda Stoker said whether schools could fire gay teachers depends on “what the school is prepared to be upfront with the community about now” — meaning if homophobia was embedded in their faith, they likely could.
Stigmatising comments could deter women
Access to abortion across Australia is not equal. Many in regional and rural areas have to drive hours for termination services, with many surgical abortion clinicsamid a health services crisis.
In religious communities, doctors have said they fear their career would be jeopardised by providing abortions, with religious hospitals.
This means many women already have to travel hours to access termination services. Justresiding in country South Australia had their termination in a country hospital — with the rest travelling to cities.
Religious Australians to get protection to make ‘statements of belief'
Australians will be able to make statements of religious belief under the protection of federal law, with warnings people could lose jobs because their sexuality is at odds with someone's faith.The federal government ended months of uncertainty by releasing a draft law to shield people who make a statement of belief as long as it is made in good faith, is in line with the teachings of their religion, is not malicious and does not vilify or harass.
Bonney Corbin, head of policy at Marie Stopes Australia, told Crikey the new bill makes things even more concerning. While many hospitals and health service providers have a code of conduct about providing respectful services, the bill would allow professionals to make religious statements that may stigmatise a person.
“People accessing sexual reproductive health products might not be protected if the person they’re receiving services from is making damaging remarks,” she said.
Video: Religious discrimination bill to make a 'number of significant improvements' (Sky News Australia)
“This could include things like, ‘contraception shouldn’t be used after marriage,’ ‘abortion is a sin,’ or ‘HIV is a punishment from God.’”
While many workplaces wouldn’t tolerate this sort of behaviour, it’s up to the patient to lodge a complaint, and whether an employer would be able to discipline an employee — especially if the organisation doesn’t have a clear code of conduct — is unclear.
Religious schools must have written policy to discriminate in hiring under proposed laws
Some say the bill will licence discrimination against gay teachers and students, but religious schools say it provides a clear framework allowing them to hire staff of their own faith.The revised Religious Discrimination Bill gives religious schools a right to positively discriminate in their employment practices and includes a clear statement of intention to override state laws, including those being pursued by the Victorian government to restrict this right.
“Even if that patient could still access services, if they feel stigmatised or shamed it could influence how they feel about themselves or coerce the outcome,” she said.
Religious doctors could dictate to women how to live their lives
Professor and Head of Health Care Management in the Flinders University School of Medicine Judith Dwyer told Crikey the bill opens the floor for medical doctors to dictate how they believe women should live their lives.
“It is clearly the intention of the bill that health professionals who hold religion-based views about how women should live their lives will be free and protected to express their views to patients regardless of the harms that will readily be caused,” she said.
She is particularly concerned about victims of sexual violence.
“It’s a burden that people needing health services shouldn’t face,” she said.
What about safe access zones?
Corbin said it’s unclear how the new bill will impact safe access zones — a 150-metre radius around abortion clinics that stops protestors or picketers from harassing those seeking services, legislated by states and territories.
Morrison says faith, freedom inseparable
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared faith and freedom inseparable under the coalition's religious discrimination bill introduced to federal parliament. The prime minister has declared faith and freedom inseparable as the coalition seeks to shield people who express their religious views even if they are considered socially disagreeable."People should not be cancelled or persecuted or vilified because their beliefs are different from someone else's in a free liberal democratic society such as Australia," Mr Morrison told parliament on Thursday.
Crikey understands the bill won’t allow picketers to break the law and protesting abortions within that safe access zone will still be banned.
But Corbin said it may take a test case. The bill overrides several state and territory laws and, while it says a statement of belief doesn’t include things that a reasonable person would consider would threaten, intimidate, harass or vilify a person or group, she is concerned silent prayers or vigils may be permitted.
Attorney-General Michaelia Cash and assistant attorney-general Amanda Stoker didn’t respond to Crikey’s request for comment by deadline.
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Actors who hated their on-screen character .
Although actors are supposed to be able to play any role, that doesn't mean they will be fond of them all. While some characters may be closer to their real-life personalities, others can be the polar opposite of their values and beliefs. Plus, actors can get tired of these roles, or frustrated that they didn't portray them properly. The latest to sound in is Viola Davis, who just revealed she feels like she "betrayed" herself by starring in 'The Help.' After once telling The New York Times she "regretted" taking the part, she's now spoken more on this with Vanity Fair. Click through the following gallery to find out which other actors disliked the characters they portrayed on-screen.