Another unneeded attack on religions: Archbishop Comensoli

Melbourne prelate slams the state government's move against exemptions underpinning mission, identity of religious organisations. Catholic schools are now under direct threat, he says

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The state is the ultimate authority: Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne has come out criticising the Andrews Government’s proposed law on religious exemptions as yet another unneeded attack on Christians and other faiths. Photo: AAP, James Ross

The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne says a new law aimed at religious organisations is “one more unneeded attack by the Government upon people of faith in Victoria.”

Archbishop Peter Comensoli said the Equal Opportunity Act (Religious Exceptions) reform will seriously diminish the rights of religious organisations to manage their activity according to their faith and conscience.

“People of faith have stood shoulder to shoulder with their fellow Victorians through this pandemic and shown extraordinary care for the vulnerable and those facing isolation, loneliness and great fear.

Archbishops Peter Comensoli of Melbourne, second from left, prays the Lord’s Prayer with other archbishops during Pope Francis’ celebration of Mass marking the feast of Saints Peter and Paul in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 29 June 2019. Archbishop Comensoli is deeply concerned by the latest move from the Andrews Labor Government in Victoria to dispense with exemptions which help Catholic organisations run according to the principles of their faith and conscience. Photo: CNS, Paul Haring

Deep concern

“I am deeply concerned that, as people of faith emerge from the pandemic, the Government should choose this time to start telling them what should be important to them in their own faith-based organisations.

“Across multiple sectors, Catholics run organisations with an open and inclusive commitment to all people in their care, regardless of their personal circumstances. Suddenly the Government is determined to tell them whether or not religious identity should be a factor in managing employment matters.”

The law proposes a new ‘inherent requirement’ test to replace current, well-working exemptions from anti-discrimination laws, which means an employer will have to prove that a staffing role had an inherent religious requirement.

Catholic schools threatened

“I am particularly worried about Catholic schools which have been a beacon of trust and welcome for so many precisely because they are run on the basis of Catholic faith and values. It should not be up to a court or a government bureaucrat to determine what constitutes faithful conduct in a religious context,” Archbishop Comensoli said.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne asks the Government for a serious re-think of its proposals and to let go of their commitment to introducing an ‘inherent requirement’ test.

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