Religious exceptions - Anti-discrimination changes

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Consultation has concluded

Consultation Process


Now Closed

This online engagement was hosted on YourSAy from 2 November to 27 November 2020. Below is a record of the engagement.


We want your feedback on proposed changes to create a better balance between equality and religious freedom rights for organisations that provide essential services.

What’s being decided?

The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 allows some organisations to discriminate in relation to their staffing practices and how they provide services to their clients.

We want to amend the Act to clarify that organisations providing certain essential services – e.g. health care and aged care – cannot discriminate

Consultation Process


Now Closed

This online engagement was hosted on YourSAy from 2 November to 27 November 2020. Below is a record of the engagement.


We want your feedback on proposed changes to create a better balance between equality and religious freedom rights for organisations that provide essential services.

What’s being decided?

The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 allows some organisations to discriminate in relation to their staffing practices and how they provide services to their clients.

We want to amend the Act to clarify that organisations providing certain essential services – e.g. health care and aged care – cannot discriminate against workers and care recipients on the basis of sex or LGBTIQ identity.

The changes would also create an exception that lets people or organisations discriminate when selecting people for direct participation in religious practices, which will preserve important religious freedoms. The changes would not affect the current ability of religious schools to hire staff in accordance with their religious values.

The sectors that would be affected by the proposed changes are:

  • children’s education
  • health care and disability support
  • aged care
  • emergency accommodation
  • public housing
  • foster care placement and children’s residential services.

The consultation summary provides further detail on what we are proposing.

Changes will help create a better balance between the right to equality and religious freedom for organisations that provide essential services and will bring South Australia into line with almost every other Australian state and territory.

Get involved

Read the Equal Opportunity (Religious Bodies) Amendment Bill 2020 and the consultation summary.

To have your say:

Attorney-General's Department, Legislative Services
GPO Box 464
Adelaide, SA 5001

If you would like your submission to remain confidential please note this is your covering email or letter.

How can your input influence the decision?

Your input will help to ensure that changes to the legislation protect individuals from discrimination when engaging with essential service providers, while still upholding the right to religious freedom in South Australia.

What are the next steps?

Feedback received through the consultation process will help to finalise the Bill to be introduced into Parliament and to amend the Equal Opportunity Act. Parliament would then consider the Bill in due course.

Contact details

For general inquiries, please email us at LLPSubmissions@sa.gov.au.

Closing date: 5pm, Friday 27 November 2020.




Background


Now Closed

This online engagement was hosted on YourSAy from 2 November to 27 November 2020. Find out more about the consultation process. Below is a record of the engagement.


Under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984, organisations that have been established for religious purposes have wide exceptions allowing them to discriminate on the basis of sex, or against LGBTIQ staff and clients. They sometimes discriminate to avoid offending members of the religion or to strongly encourage staff and clients to conform to the teachings of the particular religion.

Organisations that are not considered to be ‘established for religious purposes’ have limited or no ability to discriminate.

We want to make it clear that some essential service providers cannot rely on exceptions for bodies ‘established for religious purposes’ under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984. This would mean that it is unlawful for the providers to engage in prohibited discrimination because of their organisation’s religious beliefs or values when providing these services.

In drafting the proposed amendments to the Act, we have considered:

  • Recommendations from a community roundtable held in 2019 on issues affecting LGBTIQ communities in South Australia.
  • A report prepared by the South Australian Law Reform Institute in 2016 about religious exceptions in the Equal Opportunity Act.
  • The findings of the federal Expert Panel on Religious Freedom in 2018

You can help create a better balance by getting involved.

Consultation has concluded
  • Get involved

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link
    by BTT_Migration_Team,

    Now Closed

    This online engagement was hosted on YourSAy from 2 November to 27 November 2020. Find out more about the consultation process. Below is a record of the engagement.


    Read the Equal Opportunity (Religious Bodies) Amendment Bill 2020 and the consultation summary.

    To have your say:

    Attorney-General's Department, Legislative Services
    GPO Box 464
    Adelaide, SA 5001

    If you would like your submission to remain confidential please note this is your covering email or letter.

  • Consultation Summary

    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link
    by BTT_Migration_Team,

    Now Closed

    This online engagement was hosted on YourSAy from 2 November to 27 November 2020. Find out more about the consultation process. Below is a record of the engagement.


    This consultation summary is available in PDF to download.

    Changes for organisations

    The law currently allows some religious organisations to discriminate in relation to their staffing practices and how they provide services to their clients. These organisations sometimes discriminate to avoid offending members of the religion or to strongly encourage staff and clients to conform to the teachings of the particular religion.

    The State Government intends to amend the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 to clarify that organisations providing certain essential services – e.g. health care and aged care – cannot discriminate against workers and care recipients on the basis of sex or LGBTIQ identity. Pre-schools and primary and secondary schools will be among the services prevented from relying on the exception, although they have an existing separate exception specifically relating to hiring practices.

    By changing the religious exceptions under the Equal Opportunity Act, the government aims to create a better balance between equality and religious freedom rights. This will bring South Australia into line with almost every other Australian state and territory.

    Some religious exceptions would remain applicable to essential service providers. These are outlined in this factsheet.

    What are the changes?

    The proposed changes would remove, for some organisations or bodies, a general exception to the law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. The exception applies to ‘bodies established for religious purposes’.

    The sectors that would be affected by the proposed changes are:

    • children’s education
    • health care and disability support
    • aged care
    • emergency accommodation
    • public housing
    • foster care placement.

    Even if they were otherwise eligible for the exception, religious organisations or bodies would no longer qualify for it if the discrimination was in connection with one of these services. However, other exceptions may still apply.

    By preventing pre-schools and primary and secondary schools from relying on the exception, the Bill will make it clear that discrimination against children on the basis of sex or LGBTIQ identity is not acceptable even on religious grounds. However, an existing exemption for hiring staff in religious educational institutions will still apply.

    Which religious exceptions would remain?

    Important religious freedoms would be maintained and strengthened by the following exceptions.

    A new exception is proposed by the Bill for discrimination where a person is being selected for direct participation in practicing or observing the religion – e.g. preaching, prayer or holy communion. This includes the employment of people to perform these roles – e.g. hospital chaplains.

    Existing exceptions:

    • Allowing religious schools to hire staff in keeping with their religious values, provided they meet criteria such as having a written, publicly available policy on their hiring practices.
    • For the ordination or appointment of priests, ministers of religion or members of a religious order, or their training or education.

    An exception allowing single-sex schools would also remain.

    What would no longer be allowed?

    It would be against the law for organisations with religious affiliation to discriminate on the basis of sex or LGBTIQ identity when providing pre-school, primary or secondary education, health services, aged care, disability support services, foster care placement, emergency accommodation and public housing services. This would preclude:

    • suspending, expelling or blocking entry to students, or otherwise subjecting students to unfavourable treatment,
    • refusing to provide services, or providing lesser quality services, to potential or existing clients and patients,
    • refusing to hire someone, or terminating their employment,

    on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status, unless (in relation to employment) there is a genuine occupational need.

    It is already unlawful at a federal level for Commonwealth-funded aged care providers to discriminate against LGBTIQ people in providing aged care services.