Religious Discrimination Act Campaign

This page provides information on the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill (a Bill becomes an Act once it passes through parliament and becomes law) and resources for voicing your concerns with it.

The proposed Religious Discrimination Bill was supposed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religious belief or activity (including having no religious belief or refusing to engage in religious activity) in certain areas of public life, such as employment, education and the provision of goods and services.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter have both referred to the legislation as needing to "be a shield, not a sword"; to merely protect people from discrimination rather than giving them a means to attack others in the name of religion.

But the Bill that has been drafted demonstrably fails in this. It threatens access to healthcare, allows employment based on faith rather than merit, undermines inclusive workplaces and schools, and to some degree allows people to refuse to provide services to others.

Laws which should protect religious people from discrimination will be used to hand a licence to discriminate against LGBTIQ+ people, women, people with disability, and others.

Effects of the Bill

Statements of belief

A person with a religion, or an atheist, will be protected in their right to make statements of belief. A "statement of belief" is the expression of any belief that is based on faith (or lack thereof).

Statements of belief like this cannot be found to be discrimination, so long as:

  • The statement is a belief the person actually holds
  • The statement is one that another member of the same religion could reasonably consider to be in accordance with that religion
  • The statement is made in "good faith" and is not malicious or harassing, or inciting hatred.

Under current laws, many of these statements would be considered to be discriminatory; the RDB removes those protections.

Existing discrimination protections that ensure our workplaces, schools and public commercial spaces are dignified places for women, people with disabilities, people of minority faith, gay Australians and others, will be overridden.

This protection includes medical professionals, and would allow them to, for example, put forward faith-based views that gender is binary or that homosexuality is morally wrong to their patients. However, they would not be allowed to refuse service to such patients on the grounds of these views (though there also provisions for conscientious objection; see below).

In the case of medical professionals, the RDB would override the requirements of any professional code of practice, privileging religious expression over the provision of professional service.

Other examples of what would be allowable under these laws include:

  • A defacto couple in a taxi or an Uber could be told by the driver through the entire trip that they should not be in such a relationship.
  • A disabled person could be told by anyone that their disability was a punshment from God.
  • A psychiatrist could tell a woman with depression that she should be looking forward to the kingdom of heaven.
  • A divorcee or single parent -- even if the split was due to domestic violence -- could be told by a teacher about the moral inappropriateness of their separation and the negative impact of it on their child when dropping their child off at preschool every day.
  • A woman who had experienced a miscarriage could be advised to ask for God’s forgiveness for her baby's death.

In making these points, we do not wish to suggest that this will be typical behaviour from medical professionals; we are outlining only what would be permissable under the new laws.

Conscientious Objection

The RDB allows doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and psychologists to conscientiously object to providing particular health services if those services conflict with their religious beliefs.

Under the proposed laws, health practitioners can conscientiously object to any procedure on religious grounds, so long as it's a procedure and not a person they're objecting to.

For example, a Catholic doctor could refuse to prescribe contraception, but could not refuse to prescribe contraception only to a certain group, such as single women. If a service is not provided due to objection on religious grounds, that decision must be equally applied to all patients.

In these situations, an employer (such as a hospital) or qualifying body (such as a medical board) would not be able to restrict a health practitioner's ability to conscientiously object, unless there is an "unjustifiable adverse impact" on the patient.

This means that an objection that results in some adverse impact is permitted.

it's not entirely clear whether professionals in this situation would be required to refer patients on to another service provider. Professional conduct rules would require this, but this may no longer apply.

The government has given the example of a small rural town whose only doctor conscientiously objects to prescribing contraception. In this instance, this "may" amount to an "unjustifiable adverse impact", as the women in that town "may be unable to access alternative healthcare promptly without significant travel and costs" -- but again, this is not entirely clear.

In making these points, we do not wish to suggest that this will be typical behaviour from medical professionals; we are outlining only what would be permissable under the new laws.

This section is currently being updated.

Making a submission

Submissions on the second exposure draft only need to cover the differences between the first exposure draft and the second exposure draft, not the entire Bill, although you are free to cover whatever range of points you want.

Write up your submission as a Word document or PDF. Attach it to an email and send it to

The email itself does not need to be long. Include some brief text to the effect that you are attaching a submission for the second exposure draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill.

If you do not want your submission to be published online under your name, include some brief text saying, "I consent to my submission being published anonymously", or, "I do not consent to my submission being published online".

Include your full name.

You can find the National Secular Lobby's submission here, which you are free to use as a reference when writing your own.


The government's page on the second release of the draft Bill can be found here:

Public submissions (comments) on the draft Bill can be made to up until 31st January 2020. If you are concerned about this bill, please make a submission.

Explanations of the problems with the Bill

Taking Action

Public submissions (comments) on the draft Bill can be made to up until 31st January 2020. If you are concerned about this bill, please make a submission.

Email your elected representatives to let them know of your concerns.

Write letters to newspaper editors to publicly voice your opinions.

Give personal reasons to explain why this issue is important to you. Use your own words and always be polite.

Send emails to AG Christian Porter and others here:

Some petitions that can be signed:


In late 2018, as part of his government's Ruddock Religious Freedom Review response, Scott Morrison promised to implement a Religious Discrimination Act (RDA). This would see Religion become an attribute protected by anti-discrimination legislation in the same way as race, gender, age, disability and sexual orientation are. We expect the RDA to be introduced into parliament in February 2019.

We support the idea that people should not be discriminated against on the basis of religion or belief. That is, we agree that organisations, businesses and individuals should have no right to discriminate in the offering of employment or education, or in the exchange of goods and services, against any person based on that person's decision to follow a particular religion, to not follow a particular religion, or to follow no religion.

In that spirit, the NSL supports the idea of an RDA, but only if it relates solely to a ban on all religious discrimination. The NSL would not support any additional legislation that might allow religious bodies to be exempt from any national anti-discrimination laws, with the exception of specific cases where religion is an intrinsic requirement of the nature of a situation (for example, hiring only Catholics to be priests).

Any additional legislation which might allow such exemptions must be discussed in conjunction with the core RDA, and any proposed or granted exemptions must be publicly transparent.

The NSL strongly advocates for an "opt-in" clause, whereby any religious institution that wishes to take advantage of any RDA exemption provisions and be exempt from national anti-discrimination laws must publicly announce and advertise the fact, via public notices and website declarations, and in employment contracts, highlighting their choice and right to discriminate against specific segments of the public. Failure to make such announcements should result in legal sanctions.

We believe that even if anti-discrimination exemptions are granted as part of the RDA, many religious organisations will choose not to take advantage of them. But those that do must be completely open and honest with the public about that fact.