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Contradictions inherent in religious discrimination proposals

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06.07.2019

Sometimes, our tenacious efforts to avert the fate we least desire guarantee it.

As the debate over religious freedom intensifies around us, my concerns mount that this essential freedom, which sits among others as the hallmark of our democratic tradition, may end up becoming weaker in the longer term.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese at a church service to mark the start of the new Parliament.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

To advocates who contend that the only way to protect religious freedom is to enact a positive right expressed in the form of a Religious Freedom Act, I say be careful what you wish for.

Enacting such a positive right would almost certainly precipitate, if not immediately then in time, a debate about qualifying that right and expanding exceptions to the very freedom involved. And this is not because such a right would concern religion. Rather, it's the inescapable nature of the rights debate.

In the current debate, two undeniable rights intersect: freedom of religion and equal treatment before the law. It's the latter upon which all discrimination legislation is based.

Which one prevails?

You'll find little guidance in the........

© The Age