Catholics Warn the Existence of Religious Schools is at Threat

One of Australia’s most senior Catholic leaders has called on the Albanese government to reject law reform proposals to remove protections for religious institutions from the Sex Discrimination Act because they are “a most serious threat to the existence” of religious schools. The Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, believes the Australian Law Reform Commission proposals to remove Section 38 from the SDA, would fundamentally change religious bodies’ ability to provide the ­education parents want for their children. “The proposed ALRC changes constitute a most serious threat to the existence of our schools and our ability to provide such education. Our Catholic schools must be able to remain Catholic,” Bishop Porteus said. “It is vital that the Albanese government reject this attack on the freedom of our schools to fully embody their Catholic faith and fully commit to the protection of religious freedom for all Australians and the right of faith-based organisations to maintain the integrity of their beliefs in carrying out their mission of service to the Australian community.

“We constantly hear that we need to embrace ‘diversity’, yet religious diversity is denied. Our nation has long promoted its rich multiculturalism. We rejoice in the contribution of various ethnic communities. They have enriched our culture. So too, our nation benefits from the contribution of various faiths.” The Coalition’s attempts to legislate protections for religious communities after the 2017 same-sex marriage vote were pulled following a backbench revolt over concerns about the treatment of gay and transgender people by religious schools. “We want to work with Labor over the next few months to get the laws right to make sure people are free to practice their faith without discrimination and that people who rely on religious institutions for employment, social services or community aren’t discriminated against,” he said. Islamic, Jewish and Christian leaders have expressed concerns about changes that would prevent schools from preferencing the employment of teachers who shared their beliefs and spiritual outlook.

Archbishop Porteus said the new proposal would “limit the freedom of the school to give preference to hiring staff who are committed to the Catholic faith, or, at the very least, are respectful and committed to upholding Catholic teaching”. “The changes would permit teachers to promote views contrary to Catholic teaching and culture of the school,” he said. “In other words, Catholic schools would be prevented from maintaining the integrity of their culture and mission in educating young people. This strikes at the very heart of the founding reason for Catholic education.” He said the chair of the ALRC committee, judge Stephen Rothman, was unmoved by concerns expressed by the religious leaders. “What this reveals is that many in society, including those in high legal office, have a different understanding of the right to religious freedom and its relationship to other so-called competing rights from those who belong to faith traditions,” Archbishop Porteus said. “To teach and promote Catholic beliefs about human sexuality and marriage, which we hold as truth, is not in itself an attack on those who may disagree. “Disagreement is not hatred, vilification nor discrimination.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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