The Australian Christian Lobby said it’s a sad day for religious freedom with the Victorian Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss a Christian youth camp’s appeal to be exempted from an instance of discrimination, necessitated by its religious beliefs.



The Victorian Court of Appeal handed down its decision on April 16, upholding the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s ruling that Christian Youth Camps (CYC) had discriminated against an organisation by refusing to allow it to hire the campsite because the purpose of the organisation’s project conflicted with CYC.



ACL’s Victorian Director Dan Flynn said the Equal Opportunity Act (EOA) made provision for religious organisations to be exempt from discrimination if it was necessary for them to express genuine religious beliefs or principles.



“This case shows that equal opportunities triumph religious freedom which is a concern to the ACL. Christian Youth Camps and it’s employee, Mark Rowe, were fined for refusing a booking when, according to the dissenting judge, Justice Redlich, they were compelled to do so by their religious beliefs concerning marriage, sexuality and sexual orientation,” he said.



In Justice Redlich’s judgement he said it was important religious organisations retained the freedom to act on their religious beliefs in the marketplace.



“Justice Redlich judgement emphasises that if the religious exemption is restricted by judges this frustrates the very purpose of the exemption which is to protect religious freedom,” Mr Flynn said.



In his judgement, Justice Redlich quoted from the book Religious Freedom in the Liberal State.



T]he broad right to ‘practice’ or ‘manifest’ (to use the wording of the European Convention on Human Rights) one’s religion or belief would seem to embrace a huge variety of activity if one takes the view — as many religions do — that all life is inspired by or generated by faith and belief. The most mundane of human behaviours can be ‘spiritualized’ and take on a religious connotation. One is practising one’s religion when one eats, drinks, works, plays and gardens, as much as when one reads scripture, prays or meditates. In Christianity, ‘the righteous will live by faith’, ‘everything that does not come from faith is sin’, and ‘whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God’. On this view there is no activity which is not generated by one’s obedience (or disobedience) to God. Countless schools, hospitals, orphanages and shelters have been run by religious organizations as part of their religious mission. Running a café, gymnasium or bookshop could equally be part of one’s religious calling.



Mr Flynn said that he hoped human rights lawyers in Australia would study the decision of Justice Redlich to better understand the intended scope of section 77 of the Equal Opportunity Act.



“Justice Redlich has made a critical contribution to Victorian human rights jurisprudence by articulating the principle that religious belief may give rise to an obligation of obedience to that principle in the commercial sphere,” he said.



“CYC was acting in good conscience in not accepting the booking when it realised the proposed event conflicted with its own organisational values and beliefs,” he said.



Jusict Redlich’s judgement can be read via this link. Read from section 439 onwards.



Background



In 2007 Cobaw Community Health Service's Way Out project contacted Christian Youth Camps (CYC) facility to make a booking at the Phillip Island Adventure Resort and refused the booking.



In a 2010 ruling, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found CYC had discriminated against the group and ordered it to pay $5000.