Friday, April 18, 2014

Australian Court Says Christian Camp Illegally Discriminated On Basis of Sexual Orientation

In Christian Youth Camps Ltd. v. Cobaw Community Health Service Ltd., (Vict. App., April 16, 2014), the Court of Appeal of the Australian state of Victoria, in a 2-1 decision, held that a Christian youth camp unlawfully discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation when it refused to rent out its camp for a weekend to an organization whose goals were to prevent suicide among "same-sex attracted young people."  The majority held that neither of the two religious freedom exemptions in the Equal Opportunity Act 1995 apply. The exemption in Sec. 75(2) does not apply because the camp is not "a body established for religious purposes." The exemption in Section 77 (prior to its amendment in 2010) for conduct "necessary ... to comply with the person's genuine religious beliefs or principles" should be read as covering only individuals, and not corporations.

Justice Redlich dissented, arguing that the exemption in Section 77 is available to corporations, and that in addition corporations may claim the exemption when it is validly claimed by an agent of the corporation who acted for it. Christian Today reports on the decision.