Archbishop Peter A Comensoli has called the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) report into Religious Educational Institutions and Anti-Discrimination Laws ‘unhelpful’, saying it falls short of meeting the Government’s election promises of providing greater protection for religious freedom.

Titled Maximising the Realisation of Human Rights: Religious Educational Institutions and Anti-Discrimination Laws, the recommendations were tabled in federal parliament by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on Thursday 21 March and would substantially narrow the ability of religious educational institutions to operate and teach according to their ethos.

‘Parents choose to send their children to Catholic schools to be educated in an environment that upholds and exemplifies a Catholic ethos,’ said Archbishop Comensoli.

‘Catholic schools want to be free to be authentically Catholic in their daily activities,’ the Archbishop added, saying that includes the capacity to employ and manage staff who support the schools’ mission and ethos.

‘The Australian Law Reform Commission’s report on religious educational institutions and anti-discrimination laws is unhelpful and falls far short of meeting the Government’s election promises.

‘The Government and the Opposition should reject the report and work with faith communities towards drafting better laws.’

National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) executive director Jacinta Collins called the ALRC’s recommendations ‘predictable’ and said it was disappointing that they overlook the concerns of religious leaders and the high regard parents hold for the ethos and nature of their schools.

Not only are the recommendations at odds with the Inquiry’s terms of reference, Ms Collins said, but also with the desire of families to choose a faith-based school for their children.

‘Religious freedom is a fundamental human right and the Parliament has a responsibility to enact Australia’s international commitments to ensure parents can continue to choose a school in line with their values and beliefs and provide faith-based schools with the certainty to employ staff that support their ethos.’