Legislation to prohibit religious vilification passed NSW Parliament on Thursday.
The amendment to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 makes 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 communication to the public, verbal and non-verbal.
The legislation mirrors existing provisions in the Anti-Discrimination Act that make vilification unlawful on the grounds of race, homosexuality, transgender status and HIV/AIDS status.
People who do not have a religious belief or affiliation or do not engage in religious activity are also protected under the new law, which recognises that these are also positions in relation to religion which should be respected.
A wide range of stakeholders were consulted on the amendment, including faith-based organisations, community groups, multicultural associations, legal advocates and NSW Government agencies.
The new law comes into effect three months after the date of assent to the Act.
NSW Attorney General Michael Daley said “vilification on the grounds of a person’s religion (or no belief) is completely unacceptable in our community.”
“Now we have a clear law to protect people from public actions that incite hatred or serious contempt or severe ridicule of them on the basis of their religious belief or lack of belief,” Mr Daley said.
NSW Minister for Multiculturalism Steve Kamper said “it is regrettable to see any expression of vilification towards certain groups based on their beliefs.”
“This legislation sends a strong message to those people who seek to stir hatred and division in our community. It won’t be tolerated,” Mr Kamper said.