On Friday 3 December, the Victorian parliament passed the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill. Archbishop Peter A Comensoli said the Government's imposition of ‘an unbalanced law on people of faith’ will add to ‘a steady decline of religious freedom in Victoria.’
‘In our pluralist society, diversity of belief has long been celebrated and protected. Regrettably, this pluralism has been diminished with the passing of the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill on Friday.
‘Despite the Attorney General confirming that not a single problem of discrimination could be identified in Catholic schools, the Catholic education sector will bear the brunt of new administration burdens and be subject to an “inherent religious requirement” test.
‘The legislation is a serious overreach by the Victorian Government into the rightful freedoms of faith-based organisations. It unfairly targets and undermines the ability of faith organisations to confidently manage employment matters according to their mission.
Faith leaders in Victoria had previously raised their concerns with the Government, including a joint letter sent to the Victorian Attorney General Jaclyn Symes, but Archbishop Comensoli said there was ‘little attempt by the Government to engage with these concerns.’
‘A rushed law, with inadequate consultation, and with no amendments in parliament, is not something to be celebrated.
‘Strangely, Victorian Labor is now at odds with the federal Labor Party on an issue which ought not be divisive; that people of faith should be protected from religious discrimination.’
Archbishop Comensoli reiterated the Archdiocese's commitment to working with others ‘to shape and promote a fair and just society in which pluralism is valued and respected.
‘We ask that the same consideration is given by others, particularly the Victorian Government.’
For any media enquiries please contact Annie Carrett, Chief of Staff to the Archbishop: 0439 600 233 | firstname.lastname@example.org