Immigration Law

What is discrimination based on religion or belief?

Discriminating against someone because of their religion or belief is against the law. This is a valid policy:

When you purchase or use goods or services?

  • At Work
  • In Education
  • In Housing

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What does religion and belief mean?

If you are a member of a religion or belief, you are protected from discrimination by law

belong to an organized religion like Christianity, Judaism, or Islam

A profound belief that has a significant impact on your life and views of the world. This can include philosophical and religious beliefs as well as a lack thereof, such Atheism.

Participate in collective worship

be a member of a smaller religion, or sect like Scientology or Rastafarianism

If you are an atheist, then you can have no religion.

The law against discrimination based on religion or belief doesn’t apply to purely political beliefs, unless they are also philosophical beliefs.

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If someone makes a discriminatory statement about you because they believe you belong to a particular religion, you are protected. It is illegal for someone to discriminate against someone for wearing a head scarf because they believe you are a Muslim.

It is illegal to discriminate by association. It is illegal to refuse to allow you in a restaurant due to the religion of someone with you.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is when you are treated unfairly because of your religion, belief, or other characteristics. Direct discrimination is illegal and is known as direct discrimination.

Examples include:

  • Banks won’t lend you money because you are Jewish
  • You won’t be allowed to eat in a restaurant if you are Muslim
  • You’re Rastafarian and your boss will dismiss you from work.

If you are the victim of discrimination based on your religion or belief, you may be eligible to file a complaint.

See Direct discrimination for more information

It is illegal for anyone to create a policy, rule or practice that someone belonging to a religion or belief is not able to follow. This puts them at risk. This is known as indirect discrimination.

Some examples of indirect discrimination include:

If you are wearing a hijab, or turban, a restaurant may refuse to let you in.

If this means that employees can’t wear clothing they consider part of their faith, you should make it a rule for them to dress in a certain way.

Direct discrimination based on your religion or belief may be possible to file a complaint. If the complainant can prove that there are legitimate reasons for the rule or policy and that it does not have any connection to your religion or belief, then this will not be considered discrimination.

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It might not be discrimination to ask your employer to require you to dress in a certain way for safety and health reasons. For example, a firefighter may need to wear a helmet when responding to emergencies.


Victimisation can be a form of discrimination. Victimisation is when you are treated more harshly than another person because you have complained about or taken legal action against religious discrimination. This is also called victimisation if someone you support takes action against discrimination.

  • Verbal or physical abuse based on religion or belief
  • Attacking you for your faith or lack thereof is a crime. This includes verbal and physical abuse.

If they incite hatred against a religious group, someone is also guilty of a criminal offense. If they distribute or publish racist information, or information that is designed to incite religious hatred, this would be an example.

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  • You or your family should immediately report any of these crimes to the police.
  • See Racist and religious hatred crime for more information.