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Religious belief or religious activity case studies

The religious belief or activity case summaries are grouped into two categories: court and tribunal decisions, and conciliated outcomes.

Court and tribunal decisions are made after all the evidence is heard, including details of loss and damage. The full text of court and tribunal decisions is available from the:

Conciliated outcomes are where the parties have reached an agreement through conciliation at the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland.


Court and tribunal decisions

Photograph on driver licence

Type of outcome Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision
Contravention Discrimination
Attribute Religious belief
Area Administration of State laws
Outcome Complaint dismissed
Year 2011

Summary: Two people, whose religious belief prevented them from having their photographs taken, complained of discrimination when the Department of Transport refused to issue them with driver licences without photographs. Their religious belief is based on the Christian second commandment and the books of the Old Testament of the Bible, Exodus, and Deuteronomy.

The Department gave evidence that driver licences with photographs were introduced in Queensland in 1986 and had become a primary form of identification, and claimed reliable identification cannot occur without a photograph.

The tribunal found that the requirement to have a photograph on a Queensland driver licence was reasonable, and the complaint was dismissed.

(Source: Anti-Discrimination Commission Qld annual report 2012–2013)

Emanuel & Anor v State of Queensland [2011] QCAT 731 (20 November 2011).

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Religion not a genuine requirement for position

Type of outcome Anti-Discrimination Tribunal decision
Contravention Discrimination
Attribute Religious belief
Area Work
Outcome Complaint upheld
Compensation $27,500
Year 2008

Summary: A woman worked as a volunteer for the charity, St Vincent De Paul Society. The society’s rules described it as an international Catholic organisation of lay people that seeks to help those who are suffering. The woman was not Catholic, but described herself as a Christian. She worked for the society for six years and during that time she had been elected president of a conference group. The society knew the woman was not Catholic when she was appointed president.

During a meeting the woman was told that not being Catholic had become a matter of contention for some members, and if she did not become Catholic, she could not continue to work for the society as president of a conference group and would have to either resign as president or resign from working for the society completely. The tribunal held that the ultimatum amounted to direct discrimination.

The tribunal considered whether the general exemption for religious bodies applied (s.109) and whether the genuine occupational exemption applied (s.25). The society was made up of ‘lay faithful’ and only one of its objectives was spiritual. The tribunal decided the society was not a religious body. It also concluded that inculcating the faith was not the society’s primary function and it was not objectively necessary for a president to be Catholic. Spiritual roles were not a primary responsibility of a president, and the duties of a president were much more comprehensive.

The woman suffered severe depression as a result of the treatment of her by the society, and was awarded $25,000 in general damages, $500 for out-of-pocket expenses, and $2,000 for future psychiatric treatment. The tribunal declined to order the society to apologise because it acted on the basis of genuinely held beliefs.

Walsh v St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland (No. 2) [2008] QADT 32 (12 December 2008).

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No halal  meat in prison

Type of outcome Anti-Discrimination Tribunal Decision
Contravention Discrimination
Attribute Religious belief or activity
Area Administration of State laws and programs; Supplying goods or services
Outcome Complaint upheld
Compensation $2,000
Year 2006

Summary: A Muslim prisoner was given the same general food as other prisoners, even though he had informed the prison on his arrival that he only ate meat that was halal. After ten months at the prison, he made a written request for halal meat, but his request was declined. He continued efforts to obtain halal meat, and eventually he was provided with tinned halal meat. The tinned meat was unsatisfactory so he stopped eating it, and he kept trying to obtain fresh halal meat. After two and a half years, he was transferred to a lower security prison. He was again given the general food of other prisoners. After three months he met with the food supervisor who initially refused his request for fresh halal meat. Instead, it was agreed he would be given food supplements such as eggs, cheese, nuts etc. Eventually the prisoner was given fresh halal meat that he cooked in the prisoner unit for the rest of his time in prison.

The tribunal said that when the prison provided the man with the same food as the general prison population, it imposed a term on him that he eat the general diet provided to prisoners. He could not comply with that term because of his religion.

The prison was able to cater for prisoner diets for numerous other medical and cultural reasons, and was able to meet the cost of supplying fresh halal meat. The fact that the man was serving a long sentence was relevant because providing supplements is a temporary measure. In the circumstances, the term was not reasonable.

When the prison provided the prisoner with a vegetarian diet with supplements and tinned halal meat, it was less favourable treatment of him because of his religion. Although prisoners would find their meals unpalatable from time to time, the man received substantially more unpalatable meals because he was put on a vegetarian diet when he was not a vegetarian. He also did not always receive the supplements he was supposed to receive. The tribunal found he regularly and frequently experienced difficulty with the supply and content of his meals.

The tribunal decided there had been both direct and indirect discrimination of the man, and awarded him compensation of $2,000.

The tribunal recognised that the principle of provision of halal meat to prisoners was significant. By the time of the hearing of this complaint, all Muslim prisoners in Queensland gaols who requested halal meat were being provided with fresh halal meat.

Mahommed v State of Queensland [2006] QADT 21 (24 May 2006).

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Conciliated outcomes

Questions about religion asked in interview

Type of outcome Conciliation
Contravention Discrimination
Attribute Religious belief
Area Work
Outcome details Private apology
Financial compensation
Year

2012–2013

Summary: At a second job interview, the complainant was asked whether he was Muslim and asked his name. When he gave his name, the employer said they would call him George because it was easy to pronounce. The complainant was also asked at interview about his need for a mosque, what country he was from, and whether he understood what slang was. The complainant was not appointed to the position.

At conciliation the employer said that he was trying to be friendly, but now understood how the comments and questions could have been perceived. The employer apologised privately to the complainant and agreed to pay compensation for the perceived discrimination.

(Source: Anti-Discrimination Commission Qld annual report 2012–2013)

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Prisoner's faith respected

Type of outcome Conciliation
Contravention Discrimination
Attribute Religious belief
Area Administration of State laws
Outcome details Agreement to allow observance of religious days and ceremonies
Year Not available

Summary: A prisoner alleged discrimination on the ground of religion against a prison. The man alleged he was restricted in his practice of Spiritual Science Judaism. He complained that cardboard icons significant to his worship had been confiscated and that he had been mocked by prison staff. At conciliation, prison management agreed to allow observance of religious days and ceremonies. A request from the prisoner for candles was deemed inappropriate.

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Unable to work on Saturdays

Type of outcome Conciliation
Contravention Discrimination
Attribute Religious belief
Area Work
Outcome details Apology
Financial compensation
Compensation $5,000
Year Not available

Summary: A man complained that his employer had introduced a new rule that all staff were required to work on Saturdays. He said the rule had forced him to resign, as he was unable to work on Saturdays due to his devout practice as a Seventh Day Adventist.

The employer said he had not intentionally treated the man unfairly on the basis of his religion. The Commission explained that having no intention to discriminate was not a defence to unlawful discrimination.

In conciliation, the employer apologised for any hurt and humiliation the man may have suffered, and agreed to pay him $5,000 to cover his loss of wages and general damages.

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