QLD

Dangerous Powers for Activists

The Anti-Discrimination Bill hands dangerous powers to activists and the QHRC 

This Bill exposes faith organisations to attacks from activists and those with anti-religious motivations. 

The Bill equips activists with new ‘hateful conduct’ laws.

84 Hateful, reviling, seriously contemptuous, or seriously ridiculing conduct
  1. A person must not, because of the age, disability, gender identity, race, religion, sex, sex characteristics or sexual orientation of another person or a group of persons, engage in a public act that a reasonable person would consider hateful, reviling, seriously contemptuous, or seriously ridiculing the other person or members of the group.

Clause 84 of the Bill introduces a new ‘harm based’ prohibition on conduct that could reasonably be considered ‘hateful, reviling, seriously contemptuous, or seriously ridiculing’ of another person or members of a group with a protected attribute such as sex characteristics or gender identity. 

This new prohibition is a threat to religious freedom because it lowers the bar usually set in vilification laws, to the conduct being capable of being reasonably considered to be reviling or seriously ridiculing. 

Clause 84 then goes further, by narrowing the definition of a ‘reasonable person’. 

A ‘reasonable person’ now means a hypothetical person who shares the attributes of the complainant.

(2) For subsection (1), reasonable person means a reasonable person who has the same age, disability, gender identity, race, religion, sex, sex characteristics or sexual orientation as the other person or members of the group 

So, for a vilification case where the complainant is a transgender person, a court will ask whether a hypothetical transgender person would reasonably consider the public act in question to be reviling or seriously ridiculing. This may understandably yield different results than if the ‘reasonable people’ being considered were an average cross-section of the population. 

This is a departure from the usual approach employed by the courts in determining what is reasonable in the circumstances. 

It will make it extremely difficult for religious organisations and religious individuals to argue that their religious speech was ‘reasonable’ according to the views of hypothetical persons who share the attributes of the complainant. 

On top of this, the usual ‘free speech’ clauses (clauses 84(3) and 85(2) provide no express protection for religious speech. These ‘free speech’ clauses would only be relevant if a judge considered the religious teaching to be ‘in the public interest’. Even then, religious institutions would further need to satisfy a judge that their religious actions and teaching are ‘done reasonably and in good faith’. This is a question on which judicial minds may well differ.

The Bill would confer an extraordinary level of State control over the affairs and teachings of religious institutions according to highly imprecise tests.

This clause is a threat to free and open communication of religious beliefs and seriously lowers the bar for activists to use this law to attack ideas and religious beliefs that they do not like. 

The Bill hands overblown powers to the QHRC.

On top of concerns about activists weaponising the ‘hateful conduct’ clause, the Bill also gives the Queensland Human Rights Commission (QHRC) unnecessary and invasive powers. 

This Bill shifts the way Queensland deals with anti-discrimination from a reactive posture to a proactive posture, seeking out and creating problems rather than dealing with issues as they arise. The Bill gives the QHRC the power to: 

  • conduct self-instigated investigations and enforce compliance;
  • require documents and attendance of organisations before a Commission inquiry; 
  • Require organisations to undertake affirmative measures to eradicate discrimination within their organisation — potentially interfering with the religious activities of the organisation and diverting scarce resources towards ‘re-education’.  

The Commission does not need to be given more power to interfere with the operation of religious charities, religious schools and other religious organisations.  

NOW is the time to contact your MP and tell them to FIX THIS BILL and protect religious freedoms.

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Contact Your MP is an initiative of Freedom for Faith.