Across all areas of society, Catholics run organisations with an open and inclusive commitment to people in their care. Our excellence in the provision of services is recognised by many – evident in the large numbers of students attending Catholic schools and educational institutions.

Currently, Catholic organisations, including our schools can freely employ those who share our religious beliefs, values and ethos. However, the Victorian Government has introduced legislation seeking to change this. If it passes, the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill 2021 will affect religious organisations all across Victoria, who will be limited in their ability to employ staff, run their schools and provide other services that adhere to their faith, values and ethos.

Under the new legislation, religious bodies and educational institutes will no longer be able to employ staff who hold the same religious beliefs and values unless they can prove that it is an ‘inherent requirement’ of the job. It would grant power to a government appointed commissioner or a court to ultimately determine whether particular staffing roles carried an ‘inherent’ religious requirement or not. This means that in places like schools, and especially where government funding is attached, employers will have an extra burden of administration placed on them, and leave them vulnerable to a decrease in the role and importance of faith in the work they do.

Archbishop Peter A Comensoli has said:

The legalisation is a serious overreach of the Government into the rightful freedoms of Victorian faith-based organisations. I do not believe it is in anyone’s interest in the long term for a secular power to make such a determination for religious organisations. The role or importance of faith in a faith-based organisation cannot be relegated to a bureaucrat or a secular court. This is another sad example of people of faith and the freedom of religious organisations being unfairly targeted.

We live in a diverse and pluralistic society, and it is our democratic right and responsibility to respectfully challenge legislative proposals which are unfair and unreasonable. All people of faith and goodwill are encouraged to stand up for religious freedom and to ask our parliamentarians to oppose this Bill, particularly the introduction of an "inherent requirement" test.'

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How to stand up for religious freedom

In light of the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill 2021

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1. Contact your local Members of Parliament in Victoria

Writing to Members of Parliament (MPs) is an effective way to communicate with them about this Bill. A short letter (emailed or mailed) respectfully expressing concerns with the legislation will help them understand what is important to people of faith.

Each Victorian has one MP representing their local district and six MPs who represent their wider region. If you’re unsure who to write to, you can find out which district/region you are part of and the contact details of the MPs representing you here.

2. Contact your federal Members of Parliament

Writing to federal Members of Parliament to tell them about what is happening here is Victoria is also vitally important, because religious freedom legislation is potentially being considered on a federal level. You can write to them to share your concern and ask them to act to protect the religious freedom of all Australians.

Each Victorian has one local MP representing their geographic area and twelve Senators who represent their state.

Details of your local federal Member of Parliament can be found here. Simply scroll down to ‘Search Members’ and type in your postcode to find your MP.

Details of Victorian Senators can be found here.

3. Share your concerns with others

You are also encouraged to tell your family, friends and those in your local community about your concerns and ask them to become active too.

4. Get active on Social Media

You may also like to share your concerns with your Members of Parliament via their Social Media pages.

5. Find out more

Keep up to date about this issue by bookmarking this page and keeping an eye on the Melbourne Catholic news section. You can also find out more about the broader context for people of faith in this article.