Religious leaders attack Andrews government’s religious schools bill
The National Catholic Education Commission also opposed the bill on Tuesday and urged the Morrison government to push forward its own religious discrimination legislation, which is due to be debated in the federal parliament this month.
The commission’s executive director, Jacinta Collins, said governments are obligated to respect and protect the religious freedom of parents who send their children to a school where they will receive an education consistent with their religious beliefs.
“The unprecedented nature of the reforms proposed by Victoria will create confusion for Catholic schools, especially in the employment of staff, and could potentially lead to unnecessary litigation,” Ms. Collins said.
About a third of Victorian students attend non-government schools, of which 20 percent attend Catholic schools.
The Andrews government said in bringing the bill to Parliament last month that the proposed amendment to Victoria’s equal opportunities laws would mean that religious organizations and schools would be able to make employment decisions based solely on an employee’s religious beliefs when they are inherent in the job .
Discrimination on the basis of sexuality, marital status, gender identity or other protected attributes would not be allowed, he said.
Advocacy group Equality Australia campaigned for the amendments and called the existing exceptions outdated. The group says religious discrimination against LGBTQ + students in schools remains rife.
A 2020 report from Latrobe University which interviewed 1,859 Victorian LGBTQ + youth found that 59.7 percent of high school students frequently hear negative remarks about sexuality at their school, and 62.1 percent felt unsafe or uncomfortable at school because of their sexuality or their gender identity.
Signatories to the open letter include the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Archbishop Peter Comensoli, Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Melbourne, Paul Barker, Makarand Bhagwat of the Hindu Council of Australia, Sheikh Muhammad Nawas Saleem of the Council of Imams Victoria and Rabbi Shimon Cowen of the Institute of Judaism. and civilization, Melbourne.