Religious groups call on all parties to leave the equal opportunity laws alone

Friday 21 November 2014
A COALITION of religious groups has called upon all parties contesting the Victorian election to commit to maintaining Victoria’s current equal opportunity laws.

Religious leaders, including Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird, and representatives from the Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist and Coptic Orthodox faiths, have issued a statement urging parties to keep the current legislation.

‘The current equal opportunity Laws strike a fair balance between the right to equality, freedom of association and religious liberty,’ Archbishop Philip Freier, Archbishop of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, said.

Religious organisations provide educational, welfare and health services to Victorians of all faiths and of none.

These services remove a substantial burden from the taxpayer and are often provided at a higher standard than Government service because of the faith based commitment to the dignity of the human person held by employees. 

‘Many people who work in religious schools, religious hospitals and aged care homes as well as in religious providers to the needy in our community, consider their role not just as an employee but as a type of religious vocation,’ Archbishop Denis Hart of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne said.

Bishop Greg Pietsch of the Lutheran Church of Australia (Victorian District) added: ‘The alignment of employees to the religious organisations in which they work can be of such substantial importance to the organisation and to the persons who work and are supported by the organisation.’

Under the current laws an employer not a court or tribunal can determine the inherent requirements for employing a person in a religious organisation.

‘Proposals to change the equal opportunity laws would allow judges to decide fundamental doctrines, beliefs and principles of a faith to religious bodies. We regard this as an anathema in a society that believes in the principle of religious freedom,’ Reverend Darren Middleton, Convener, Presbyterian Church of Victoria, Church and Nation Committee said.

Bishop Suriel of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Melbourne concluded: ‘I urge all parties and candidates seeking election at the forthcoming State Election to provide certainty, maintain a balance between the rights to religious freedom and equality and maintain the current laws.’

Religious Leaders

Archbishop Denis Hart
Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne

Archbishop Philip Freier
Anglican Diocese of Melbourne

Bishop Anba Suriel
Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Melbourne

Bishop Greg Pietsch
Lutheran Church of Australia

Bishop Paul Bird
Catholic Diocese of Ballarat

Reverend Daniel Bullock
Baptist Union of Victoria

Reverend Darren Middleton
Presbyterian Church