New religious vilification laws come into effect in NSW

Individuals affected by religious vilification can file complaints with Anti-Discrimination NSW

New religious vilification laws come into effect in NSW

The NSW government has announced the implementation of a new law prohibiting vilification on the grounds of affiliation or activity.

The Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Vilification) Act 2023 came into effect last Sunday. The legislation amended the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, aiming to curb acts of vilification based on religious belief, affiliation, or activity. Under the new law, inciting hatred, serious contempt, or severe ridicule of individuals or groups based on their religious beliefs becomes unlawful through a "public act."

A "public act" is broadly defined as various forms of public communication or conduct, whether verbal or non-verbal.

The amendments closely mirror existing provisions that make vilification unlawful based on race, homosexuality, transgender status, and HIV/AIDS status. The new legislation will also extend protection to individuals without religious beliefs or affiliations or those who do not engage in religious activity.

Individuals affected by religious vilification can file complaints with Anti-Discrimination NSW, which will seek resolution through conciliation. In certain cases, complaints may be referred to the NCAT for determination. If a complaint is substantiated, NCAT can issue orders, including apologies or damages of up to $100,000.

The government conducted extensive consultations on the proposed amendments with various stakeholder groups, including religious faith and advocacy organisations, legal entities, and government agencies.

Premier Chris Minns emphasised the government's commitment to fostering 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 NSW's thriving, tolerant, multi-religious and multi-ethnic heart."

Attorney General Michael Daley said, "We welcome people to NSW from all over the world. The harmony we enjoy and for which we have worked so hard is worth protecting. These amendments support our deep commitment to a strong and cohesive NSW."

Minister for Multiculturalism Steve Kamper emphasised the legislation's necessity, stating that those who vilify others based on religion should understand that such behaviour is unacceptable.

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

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