Myth 15: A Human Rights Act will impinge on Religious Freedom

The myth: A Human Rights Act will undermine religious freedom. For example, religious groups will not be able to employ people of their own faith in charities, hospitals and schools. Doctors would be forced to perform abortions against their religious convictions.

The reality: Freedom of religion is already protected from infringement by the federal government under the Constitution. A Human Rights Act would further protect freedom of religion in Australia.

A federal human rights Act is likely to bind only federal public authorities. Very few, if any, religious bodies could be classified as federal public authorities. For example, religious schools and hospitals are usually state bodies.

Doctors would be unlikely to have direct duties under a federal Human Rights Act, so any duty to perform an abortion would have to stem from other legislation enacted by Parliament.  It is extremely unlikely that the federal Parliament would pass a law on this issue, as abortion is generally regulated by the States. Indeed, a federal Human Rights Act might assist a doctor or other person who was forced to act against his or her conscience under a federal law.