Jewish community submissions to the Religious Freedom Bills

Jewish community submissions to the first and second exposure drafts of the Religious Freedom Bill

Religious Freedom Bills – First Exposure Drafts – Submissions


Religious Freedom Bills – Second Exposure Drafts – Submissions


Please contact us if you become aware of any other relevant submissions for this page.

Religious Freedom Review: ECAJ ‘cautiously welcomes’ findings + Schools reject discrimination | AJN

See also:

ajn-20181221-p5 ECAJ cautiously welcomes findings + Schools reject discrmination

ECAJ ‘cautiously welcomes’ findings

December 23, 2018

THE Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) has “cautiously welcomed” the long-awaited release of the Religious Freedom Review and the federal government’s response.

The government has endorsed 15 of the 20 recommendations in the report, which was handed down in May but only released last week.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government plans to introduce a Religious Discrimination Act, employ a Freedom of Religion Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission and look to introduce a range of other amendments.

The issue of whether religious schools should be allowed to discriminate based on LGBTI+ status has been deferred for the time being.

“Discrimination on the basis of a person’s identity – including their religious identity – is unacceptable … we [also] respect the right of religious institutions to maintain their distinctive religious ethos. Our laws should reflect these values,” Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter said last week.

“Our commitment to striking an appropriate balance is clear. We are committed to finding a way forward that cuts through the political debates about whether some rights are more important than others.”

ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim said that although the roof body believed religious freedom in Australia is not under threat, “as both an ethnic and a faith community we support the government’s intention ‘to further protect, and better promote and balance, the right to freedom of religion under Australian law and in the public sphere’.”

He said there “should be little controversy” about the endorsed recommendations, but did say the introduction of a Religious Discrimination Act will be more contentious.

“On the one hand the legislation will prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person’s religious belief or activity … on the other hand there will be similar exemptions to those in other anti-discrimination legislation,” he said.

“In practice, however, some difficult situations may arise in which one or the other principle will have to give way, and where no broad social consensus exists as to which principle ought to prevail.”

Wertheim added the creation of the Freedom of Religion Commissioner role was “good sense”.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council director of community affairs Jeremy Jones said the government would have a “difficult task trying to get the correct balance between protecting the right of all Australians to enjoy religious freedom while also trying to ensure that we can have full and robust discussion on matters of concern”.

GARETH NARUNSKY

AIJAC distances itself from Isi Leibler’s toxic views on marriage equality

On Monday November 14 2017 the Australia Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) distanced itself from Isi Leibler’s intolerant views of LGBTIQ people and marriage equality by way of an unrestrained apology sent to their mailing list:


 

20171114 AIJAC distances itself from Isi Leibler on his toxic Marriage Equality views

Disclaimer and apology regarding Update 11/17 #03

Nov. 14, 2017

Earlier today, as part of the “Update from AIJAC” email newsletter, a link was included to Isi Leibler’s latest column, in which he stated his opinions on same sex marriage. Isi Leibler’s columns are routinely linked in the Update newsletter, and the decision to include this column was taken without the input of senior AIJAC management. Given the nature of this column, linking it at this time was clearly an error, for which AIJAC apologises. AIJAC did not intend to and does not endorse Isi Leibler’s opposition to same sex marriage, which does not reflect AIJAC’s views.


A response to Isi Leibler’s column can be found here.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council doesn’t walk its talk

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council don’t walk its talk when it comes to factual accuracy.

On October 9 2017 ABC Media Watch quoted Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council’s Colin Rubinstein:

“We do critique journalists and media stories when we see factual errors, lack of context, or unprofessionalism …”
— Dr Colin Rubenstein, Executive Director, AIJAC, 28 July 2017

It is disappointing that Colin Rubinstein is taking the high moral ground on matters of factual accuracy.

AIJAC remains unrepentant for a matter of factual inaccuracy that Aleph Melbourne called them out on in 2016 (see AIJAC should apologise for unsubstantiated criticism of Greens policy).

It would be good to hear AIJAC’s apology for their factual inaccuracy and perceived bias.

AIJAC should apologise for unsubstantiated criticism of Greens policy

On June 27 2016 the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) published an article by Ahron Shapiro critical of the Australian Greens entitled “The Greens and Israel“.

The article opened with the following caution:

Pre-election polling and analysis suggests the Australian Greens party is likely to pick up one or more lower house seats this election – on top of retaining the seat of Melbourne. This gives it the potential to not only hold the balance of power in the Senate, but if a hung parliament results from this election, also determine who forms government – with very significant leverage over the minority government thus formed.

and concluded with the following section on domestic policy:

Religious Exemptions

A further issue in the Greens platform likely to concern many in Australia is its policy of removing clauses granting limited exemptions to religious organisations from anti-discrimination laws. This would likely impact significantly on Jewish schools and other communal institutions and concern has been expressed about this policy by Jewish community leaders.

Aleph Melbourne approached AIJAC for clarification of the “significant impact” and the “expressed concern” referred to in the article.

Colin Rubinstein, AIJAC Executive Director, provided the following explanation:

In response to your query I refer you to the story below in the Australian from May 24.
While it may be that there was not much Jewish reaction in the press on the Greens plan, the reaction that was published was top-level.
Peter Wertheim does not comment on every story he is approached for, and his decision to comment here, I would say, well  reflected his confidence and our feedback too that he was conveying the community’s sentiment expressed anecdotally behind the scenes.
At any rate, our mention of this plan took up a very small part of our overall report on the Greens, and should be put in proper perspective.

Colin also provided the two source paragraphs from the May 24 2016 article “Federal election 2016: Greens under pressure on religion reforms” in The Australian by David Crowe:

Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders are objecting to the Greens plan to remove the religious ­exemptions, saying it could force people to act against their faith.

and:

Executive Council of Australian Jewry director Peter Wertheim said: “It would be wrong and unworkable for the law to compel people to do things that are contrary to their religious beliefs or conscience.’’

Independently, Aleph Melbourne had contacted Peter Wertheim, Executive Director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, on May 24 2016 about the aforementioned article, querying if he had been quoted accurately.  Peter provided the following response:

Here is the whole quote I gave to The Australian.

It is appropriate for the law to ensure that people are  not discriminated against at work or in accessing education, housing and other services, because of their race, gender, sexual preference, age or disability.    However, it would be wrong and unworkable for the law to compel people to do things that are contrary to their religious beliefs or conscience. 

My comment would therefore not apply to a proposed change to the definition of marriage in section 5[1] of the Marriage Act.  But it would apply to a proposed repeal of section 47[2] of the Marriage Act. My understanding is that the proponents of marriage equality are only seeking the former, not the latter. I didn’t refer specifically to the Greens, but given the vagueness and generality of Senator McKimm’s statements I couldn’t work out what he was proposing, and therefore thought it was right to comment.

It is evident that AIJAC was not aware of Peter Wertheim’s full quote supplied to The Australian, and by inference was similarly unaware that Peter was referring to issues relating to the Marriage Act and not anti-discrimination legislation.

AIJAC was lobbying their interest groups to vote unfavourably for the Greens in the July 2 2016 Federal election.  Religious exemptions to anti-discrimination legislation directly impact LGBTIQ Australians, some of whom are Jewish, who are employed by Jewish organisations.  It is deeply disappointing that AIJAC targeted the Greens anti-discrimination policy based on an unsubstantiated claim, more so when it has the potential to hurt some of the most vulnerable members of society.

It is also deeply disappointing that AIJAC attempted to minimise the significance of mentioning the paragraph about the Greens policy on removal of religious exemptions to anti-discrimination legislation.  The damage to people’s lives due to this exemption is amply significant.

An apology from AIJAC to the Greens and to LGBTIQ people for their unfair criticism of the Greens policy would be appreciated.

[1] http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ma196185/s5.html
[2] http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ma196185/s47.html