The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Religious Bill

Federal Parliament is debating a Religious Bill that will profoundly affect Australian Hindus in some good ways and some not so good ways. Here is a run down.

GOOD aspects of the Religious Bill

The bill makes discriminating against a person on the basis of their religion illegal. Yes, in some states, someone can discriminate against you on the basis of your religion and get away with it. This Bill will fix that. This will be a big win for all people of faith and is definitely something worth supporting by all Hindus.

The bill protects places of religion and schools run by faith organizations. This is good for Hindus too. Hindu temples will be able to ensure that their temples are staffed by those of Hindu faith and our temples can not be sued and dragged into anti-discrimination legal disputes by activists.

The bill protects statement of belief. Hindus will be able to express their faith, its practice, celebrate their festivals freely, wear religious attire in public, take out religious processions and and teach Hinduism without ear. This is good for Hindus.

Hindus fully support  the extension of the federal anti-discrimination framework to ensure that Australians are not discriminated against because of their religious beliefs or activities and thank the all Parliamentarians for providing these protections. BUT we want changes in the bad and ugly parts of the law.

BAD aspects of the Religious Bill

The bill exempts faith run organizations like hospitals and aged care facilities to only hire people of their own faith, so that they can preserve  faith ethos and faith environment. This may seem obvious but in practice it will adversely affect a large number of Hindus working in these institutes. Hindus would not be considered as “preferred” employees and in promotion, work conditions and may even be fired from the job only because of their faith. Hindus can be shut off from jobs in Christian and other faith run institutes.

A large number of Hindus work in Aged Care service industry. Hindus also work as teachers, IT professionals, as Doctors and Nurses in faith run institutes. Imagine being told one day (after this bill becomes a law) by your employer, “We no longer need you because we have found someone our faith who can do your job”.

Imagine applying for your ideal job only to find out that your application has been rejected because you are a Hindu.

Imagine working in your job only to be told that you can not be relied on doing some tasks because you have not chosen the right religion or do not pray daily and so on.

The Ugly side of the Religious Bill

Hindus do not believe in religious conversion and accept all modes of worship.

Followers of many religions believe in only one form of worship and believe it is their duty to convert others to their faith.

Imagine being a new migrant who has found a job in a faith based organization and you regularly harassed to change your religion.

Imagine being offered employer sponsored permanent residency if only you convert to the right religion.

This is the ugly side of the Religious Bill that will disproportionally affect migrants, minority faiths, older citizens, unemployed and disadvantaged.  These ugly side effects of the bill can be mitigated by limiting its provisions to truly religious institutes and not to businesses.

Summary of our concerns : 

  1. Employment preference by faith should be limited to religious institutes only an should not extend to hospitals, aged care, charities etc.
  2. Provision to protect people of faith from vilification by people of other faiths.

Further information at :

Link to the Federal Bill in Parliament – Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 – Parliament of Australia (aph.gov.au)

Hindu Council of Australia’s submission Transcript – Hansard – Committee 20/01/2022 Parliament of Australia (aph.gov.au)

Freedom of religion in Australia – Wikipedia