As the law currently stands in Victoria, there is an exemption in the equal opportunity act to allow faith-based institutions to discriminate on who they employ based on religious values. At the moment there’s a bill in motion in the Victorian Parliament to remove that exemption for faith based charities, schools, etc. As far as I’m aware this change won’t apply to churches, mosques etc themselves.
The current review by the Victorian Parliament’s Scrutiny of Acts & Regulations Committee (SARC) into the Exceptions in the Equal opportunity Act 1995 has the potential to be even more of a threat to religious freedom than the infamous Racial & Religious Tolerance Act (RRTA). Faith-based charities, schools and organisations could have their activities severely constrained by the inquiry’s suggestions that religious bodies lose the right to employ staff who share their values.
So here’s the thing. I’m very interested in a discussion about the Church being considerably outraged at this proposed amendment. I’ve heard a number of the arguments as to why this is a terrible thing: my mother and my father-in-law both work for a Christian school who has come out strongly against the proposal. So I want to frame the discussion in a different way.
As a society we’ve decided that discriminating between people on the basis of their gender, race, age, height, sexuality or religious affiliation is unacceptable for any employers, or indeed for any interaction between members of society. So what I would love for you to do is to imagine that you have no affiliation with the church, that you are not a Christian, and give me a good reason why, for someone like that, they should support the church’s push to be allowed an exemption for organisations like faith-based charities or church schools. Your impassioned pleas are hereby sought.