Anthea Fraser Gupta

Submission number: 
114
Date of submission: 
4th January 2018

People should have freedom to practise their religion, as long as what they do does not contravene the laws of Australia. Employers should be required to make reasonable arrangements to allow employees to practise their religion, by providing, if needed and if feasible, a place for prayers, by helping an employee to take leave on important festivals, or by not requiring a person to work on a Sabbath day.

Organisations should make provision for clothing that meets the religious requirements of employees, by, for example, including culturally appropriate headcoverings in uniforms.

However, practitioners of all religions, or of none, need to respect the religious views and practices of others.

"Religious freedom" should not give a person the right to oppress someone with different views. In particular, it should not be used to permit discrimination against someone from another group, with different beliefs or practices.

It is well-known that this commission has been called because some Christians want to weaken anti-discrimination laws to allow them to refuse service to same-sex couples. Religious freedom should never be used as an excuse to discriminate against a person on the grounds of religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. Discrimination against others is not part of religious freedom.

I am appalled that this commission is underway. It is being driven by the dominant religion of Australia. Religious freedom in Australia is (quite rightly) very high. Religions enjoy tax exemptions. They are funded to run schools. They wield enormous power, and have not always used it well.

Religion should certainly not have even more power. Australia is a secular nation, not a theocracy. The best way to promote religious freedom is through tolerance.