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Anti-bias law 'threat to religious freedom'

Proposed laws aimed at stamping out religious discrimination face defeat if they are introduced to the South Australian Parliament.

The State Opposition said yesterday the laws would curtail freedom of speech and expression.

Religious groups and other politicians in the Legislative Council have supported the Opposition stance and Labor does not have enough votes in the Upper House to ensure the law is passed.

The Government has released a discussion paper against religious discrimination and vilification which would require changes to the Equal Opportunity Act.

The law would tie in with existing anti-discrimination laws and make it unlawful to discriminate against a person because of their religious beliefs in areas such as employment, education and membership of associations.

It would also be unlawful to vilify another person on the grounds of their religion.

Opposition legal spokesman Robert Lawson said the law would divide the community and cause confusion.

Anglican Archdeacon John Collas said the church did not support the proposed law because it had the capacity to "curtail freedom of expression, of one's opinion".

"(In our submission) we specifically criticised sections of it as dangerous for a free society," Archdeacon Collas said.

A spokeswoman for the Catholic Church said the church did not want to comment "at this stage".

But Adelaide Church of Scientology spokeswoman Janice Werneburg said the church supported the law because many members had been vilified and discriminated against.

NSW/ACT Catholic Bishops Statement on Religious Freedom
Parliament of South Australia
Equal Opportunity Commission of South Australia

The Advertiser

6 Aug 2002