Archbishop Peter A Comensoli is encouraging the community to express their support for the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021, saying the federal bill will provide basic human rights protections for Australians of all faiths to express their beliefs. One of the two federal Parliamentary committees reviewing the bill is currently seeking responses from the public via an online survey, which closes at 5pm 21 December.

In a letter sent to clergy and members of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Archbishop Comensoli, who is also chair of the Bishops Commission for Life, Family and Public Engagement, said that all Australians, regardless of their religious belief or activity, should be able to participate fully in society.

‘They must be entitled to the equal and effective protection of the law and should not be discriminated against on the basis of their religious belief or activities in public life,’ he said. The Archbishop has previously commended the bill, saying that while not perfect, it offers ‘a positive expression of religious freedom’ that will be ‘an important progression towards parity with other anti-discrimination laws in Australia’.

In recent weeks, the Victorian Parliament passed the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill 2021 which the Archbishop said was ‘regrettable’ after being rushed through Parliament. ‘This unbalanced law imposed on people of faith, only adds to a steady decline of religious freedom in Victoria,’ he said.

‘It unfairly targets and undermines the ability of faith organisations to confidently manage employment matters according to their mission.’

The proposed federal bill includes provisions to protect the ability of religious organisations to hire people who share their faith and values. The bill has been referred to two federal Parliamentary committees who will be consulting with organisations and individuals over the coming weeks, including the 10-question online survey which closes next week.

Archbishop Comensoli encouraged members of the community to complete the survey and express their support for the federal Religious Discrimination Bill, as well as contacting federal representatives in Parliament with concerns about the diminishment of religious freedom in the State of Victoria.

Now, more than ever, there is a need to provide people of faith with protection under the law. We are fortunate to live in a democratic society where we have the right and responsibility to advocate for fair and just laws. I encourage you to exercise this freedom.’

The online survey is currently open to members of the public with submissions closing at 5pm on 21 December.