Politics with Michelle Grattan

Frank Brennan on Israel Folau and religious freedom

July 3, 2019

Frank Brennan, Jesuit priest and member of the expert panel on Religious Freedom set up by Malcolm Turnbull says the Israel Folau matter is a "simple freedom of contract case regardless of Mr. Folau's religious views".

"I think the question is, did he voluntarily, and for a very large sum of money, agree with his employer to follow a work code which included an undertaking not to make statements on social media about various things which may or may not have a religious component?"

Responding to Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells' renewed call this week for a Religious Freedom Act - as distinct from narrower legislation favoured by the Morrison government - Brennan told The Conversation: "I continue to have my reservations about that, mainly on the basis that I don't think religious freedom is an enormous problem in Australia".

He sees the way forward as a Religious Discrimination Act, recommended by the review, in line with other existing anti-discrimination laws on race and gender.

As for issues to do with religious schools, "Penny Wong's bill was correct" - referring to the Senator's Amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act late last year which sought to remove the capacity of religious schools to directly discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. The only addition needed to this, he says, would be a clear commitment that "religious schools are free to teach their doctrine".

Additional audio

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

Image:

AAP/ Alan Porritt