Restrictions on faith-based

The Anti-Discrimination Bill creates restrictions on employment that will prevent religious organisations from maintaining their religious character 

The Anti-Discrimination Bill 2024 (QLD) would legislate the most restrictive regime for religious organisations and religious schools in Australia. 

These restrictions would be so severe that they would seriously undermine the ability of a religious school, university, charity, or other organisation to remain an authentic religious community. 

Consider the current process through which a church might hire an administrator. The administrator will work closely with the whole church staff team, and be the first point of contact when someone calls the church office. Currently, a job description might require that an applicant is an evangelical Christian who is actively involved in a church and who authentically represents the faith in the way they live, including in their personal relationships. Factors like gender identity, sexual orientation and even sex work activity would be matters of consideration for any applicant, even if they were not technically involved in ‘ministry’ in the church.   

Similarly, if an existing employee at a church were to have an affair, or transition to a different gender, or to enter into a homosexual relationship, that church is likely to wish to terminate employment if it is deemed that the employee’s behaviour does not align with the faith, as understood by that organisation 

The same is true for any religious organisation that is trying to preserve an authentic religious character.  

The proposed Anti-Discrimination Bill would change all of this.  

Here is the relevant section of the legislation: 

29 Genuine occupational requirements for religious bodies

  1. A person may discriminate against another person on the basis of the other person’s religious belief or religious activity in relation to work for a religious body if­­—
    1. participation in the teaching, observance or practice of the religion concerned is a genuine occupational requirement of the work; and
    2. the other person cannot satisfy the genuine occupational requirement because of the other person’s religious belief or religious activity; and
    3. the discrimination is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.
  2. Subsection (1) applies to discrimination in relation to a matter mentioned in section 22(1)(a), (b) or (d) or (2)(c).
  3. To remove any doubt, it is declared that a person can not rely on subsection (1) to discriminate against another person on the basis of a protected attribute other than religious belief or religious activity.

Example for subsection (3)—

A person can not rely on subsection (1) to discriminate against another person on the basis of the other person’s relationship status.

Unpacking the legislation: ineffective protections for religious bodies 

The legislation provides exemptions for religious organisations to employ people based on their “religious belief or religious activity”. (So, for example, requirements to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, or to regularly attend church). However, that only applies if having that faith is a “genuine occupational requirement of the work” and the action “is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances”.  

The termgenuine occupational requirement” means that a faith organisation would have to prove that a job required “participation in the teaching, observance or practice of the religion”. That could mean proving before a court that a staff member has a “genuine occupational requirement” to comply with the faith. As this test would be determined by a judge, religious organisations are left without certainty. 

The “reasonable and proportionate” clause also leaves it open for the courts to decide what is “reasonable and proportionate” in any situation, leaving faith groups without any clarity. Is it “proportionate” to stop employing someone who believes one tenet of the faith but not another? It also means that secular judges will be deciding what is “reasonable” for adherents of a faith to believe or practice: Is it “reasonable” for a church to require employees to believe in the virgin birth, or for a mosque to enforce strict fasting throughout Ramadan? 

Sexual behaviour cannot be considered 

On top of this, the exemption does not apply to “a protected attribute other than religious belief or religious activity”. These protected attributes include gender identity, relationship status, sexual orientation and even sex work activity 

That means that a faith organisation could not refuse to employ someone who is having an affair, in a homosexual relationship, transitioning to a different sex, or actively working as a prostitute. This applies to churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, schools, charities and all other faith-based organisations.  

  • A Jewish school could refuse to employ someone if they eat pork, but not if they are moonlighting as a prostitute; 
  • A Christian church could require employees to say they believe that sex should remain within heterosexual marriage, but cannot require them to authentically model that belief; 
  • A Muslim women’s group could refuse to employ a woman who is not wearing a hijab, but not if they were a biological male who has ‘transitioned’. 

Faith leaders are not required to live their faith 

The legislation provides an exemption for “the ordination or appointment of people as priests, ministers of religion or members of a religious order or to another religious role”, and for “the selection or appointment of people to perform functions in relation to, or otherwise participate in, any religious observance or practice”. So, organisations are allowed to discriminate in choosing who can be ordained as a minister, or who is or is not allowed to perform certain religious functions in a church service, for instance. 

However, there is a clear difference between ordination for ministry, and employment. If a person gets ordained as a minister, and later commits adultery, it appears that their church could not remove them or otherwise impact their “work” situation without being guilty of “discrimination”. 

This Bill will have serious consequences for religious organisations and schools in Queensland, seriously affecting their ability to operate as authentic religious communities. 

It guts protections for religious freedoms in the State. 

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




Contact Your MP is an initiative of Freedom for Faith.