Bill undermines freedom of expression and religion – Life Network

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The draft bill on equality “seriously weakness and limits” the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion, according to Life Network. In a statement, the organisation claimed that the proposed draft limits the freedom of Church schools and those private schools that embrace a Catholic ethos.

Life Network said that the law limits Church schools’ rights on employing individuals who are not practising Catholics. This would undermine the identity and autonomy of Church schools, Life Network added. The organisation described the terms used in the bill as “vague”, arguing that broad interpretation of terms is possible.

The NGO claimed that religious symbols will only be left on the street if they have a “cultural value”, adding that laypeople would decide whether such symbols had cultural value.

An equality commissioner will be chosen through a public call. Two-thirds of parliament will be required for the commissioner’s approval. Life Network said that despite the two-third requirement, the law allows for a commissioner to be approved by a simple majority if the commissioner fails to secure two-thirds of the votes. The organisation warned that this might lead to a situation whereby the Government would choose the commissioner, warning that this would not guarantee the credibility this post requires.

Finally, according to the NGO the Bill is unconstitutional since the board has the power to award moral damages up to €10,000. Referring to case law, the organisation said that one finds several decisions by the Constitutional Court which declared that fines may only be imposed by a court.

Read the position paper by Life Network