New religious vilification laws commence in NSW

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A new law that prohibits vilification on the grounds of religious belief, affiliation or activity has come into effect in New South Wales.

The Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Vilification) Act 2023 amends the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 to make it unlawful to, by a public act, incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or group of persons, because of their religious belief, affiliation or activity.

A ‘public act’ includes any form of public communication or conduct, verbal and non-verbal.

The amendments in the Act are modelled on existing provisions that make vilification unlawful on the grounds of race, homosexuality, transgender status and HIV/AIDS status.

The new law will also protect people who do not hold a religious belief or affiliation, or who do not engage in religious activity.

A complaint of religious vilification may be made to Anti-Discrimination NSW, which will seek to resolve it by conciliation.

In certain circumstances, a complaint may also be referred to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for determination. This would allow the President of the Anti-Discrimination Board to accept, investigate and attempt to conciliate complaints, as well as refer the complaint to NCAT for determination. If a complaint is substantiated, NCAT may make a range of orders, including for an apology or for damages of up to $100,000.

The Government consulted closely on the proposed amendments with a broad range of stakeholder groups, including religious faith and religious advocacy organisations and community advocacy organisations, legal stakeholders and NSW Government agencies.

Premier of New South Wales Chris Minns said, “The NSW Government supports a peaceful, multicultural society in NSW.”

“There cannot be room for hatred which sows the seeds of mistrust and intolerance. We cannot tolerate religious vilification. This would threaten the thriving, tolerant, multi-religious and multi-ethnic heart of NSW,” Mr Minns added.

“We must all champion community harmony and togetherness, and choose peace and solidarity over hatred and division.

“The commencement of these amendments to the Anti-Discrimination Act fulfils an important election promise.”

The NSW Minister for Multiculturalism Steve Kamper said, “The message is simple. Those who would vilify others because of their religion should know that it is unacceptable.”

“This much-needed legislation will provide our faith communities with similar protections provided to members of diverse and multicultural communities,” Mr Kamper added.

“NSW is the most successful multicultural and multifaith state in the world. We are united by our respect for each other and our commitment to tolerance and understanding.”

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