Faith Groups Push ALP for Religious Security

Leading Christian groups are calling on Labor MPs to back more protections for religious organisations in the party’s policy platform at the upcoming ALP national conference, warning that the ACT government’s takeover of Calvary Hospital has set a dangerous precedent. Michael Stead, the Anglican Bishop of South Sydney, said the need for immediate clarity over protections for religious hospitals was now “on the radar” for the faith community. Dr Stead urged the government to address the matter at national conference in Brisbane. The Freedom for Faith chairman said he was concerned the draft of Labor’s policy platform “does not specifically mention the faith-based sector in our healthcare system”. “It’s one thing to say we’re committed to a private sector healthcare system, but at the same time, that doesn’t include a commitment to allow a faith-based hospital to act in accordance with its religious belief. There’s an omission in the policy,” Dr Stead said.

“That’s now on our radar as a result of the compulsory acquisition of a hospital in Canberra. “I think I’d like to see it strengthened and in particular an acknowledgment that faith-based healthcare is actually a very significant part of the landscape of healthcare in Australia. “It’s astounding to me that the government compulsorily acquired a hospital, in particular, because it won’t perform as the whole range of services because of religious beliefs. “So this is a new issue emerging that I think needs to be addressed.” The media is reporting there will be a push at the ALP national conference for the Albanese government to provide free abortions throughout Australia. Influential women’s group Emily’s List, which is co-convened by NSW Left faction MP Sharon Claydon, will also push a motion demanding that all publicly funded hospitals provide abortion services.

Dr Stead said he was concerned that the Labor platform and national debate on abortion had become unbalanced, with vulnerable women needing more support to continue with a pregnancy rather than opt for a termination. “There’s a much greater push to provide women with access to abortion than to provide them with support to enable them to continue with their pregnancy and that seems like gross imbalance,” he said. Presbyterian Church of Australia moderator-general Peter Barnes said the push by Emily’s List was a “threat to the lives of vulnerable people in our community”. “Labor also places religiously committed medical staff in a position where they must choose between their convictions and continuing to work in an area in which they offer an important service,” Dr Barnes said. He noted the draft platform also did not commit to ensuring that charities that held “a traditional view of marriage” would not lose their charitable status, as had occurred overseas.

He said the prohibition of “conversion therapy” was also of concern because it could capture a broad definition of church activities, including simply preaching their view of marriage. “It puts at risk normal pastoral care in churches for people facing a range of sexual and gender struggles,” he said. Labor’s national conference will decide the party’s platform and bind the government to the agreed-upon policies at the next election. Delegates representing Labor members and unions will vote on motions that amend the draft platform, which was finalised in April. The Left faction is expected to have a majority of delegates at national conference for the first time in 70 years.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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