The Spectral Ground: Religious Belief Discrimination

Macquarie Law Journal, Vol. 9, pp 71-91, 2009

ANU College of Law Research Paper No. 10-15

22 Pages Posted: 4 May 2010 Last revised: 6 Aug 2013

See all articles by Margaret Thornton

Margaret Thornton

ANU College of Law

Trish Luker

University of Technology Sydney, Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

This paper considers the ground of religious belief under anti-discrimination law and argues that it is a spectral ground. While discrimination is proscribed in the same way as other grounds, religious belief is never defined; it merely has to be ‘lawful’, which is also not defined. While the proscription emerged from an official commitment to state secularism, in addition to tolerance and diversity, its permeable character allows mainstream Christianity, neoconservative fundamentalism and other variables to seep into it. An analysis of discrimination complaints shows how this occurs metonymically through proscribed grounds, such as sex, sexuality, ethnicity and race. The phenomenon is most marked post-9/11 through what has come to be known as ‘Islamophobia’. The proscription of religious vilification and incitement to religious hatred, which takes discrimination on the ground of religious belief to a new plane, further reveals the tendency of the spectral ground to absorb prevailing political influences.

Keywords: Discrimination, religious belief, Australia

Suggested Citation

Thornton, Margaret and Luker, Trish, The Spectral Ground: Religious Belief Discrimination (2009). Macquarie Law Journal, Vol. 9, pp 71-91, 2009, ANU College of Law Research Paper No. 10-15, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1599338

Margaret Thornton (Contact Author)

ANU College of Law ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200
Australia

Trish Luker

University of Technology Sydney, Faculty of Law ( email )

Sydney
Australia

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