The recent passing of the Equal Opportunity Amendment Bill is good news for protecting religious freedom in Victoria.
Under the Bill, Victorian faith-based groups will again be able to employ like-minded staff in their organisations without having to prove that Christian faith is an ‘inherent requirement’.
The passing of the amendment is the fulfilment of an election promise.
Limits were placed on religious freedom when a change to the Equal Opportunity law was instigated after the Victorian Charter of Rights was introduced four years ago. The Greens used the Charter in 2008 as a lever to overturn this important protection for religious freedom.
It is the same freedom that political parties enjoy in discriminating in favour of staff who share their ethos.
However, the Greens did not want Christian schools, churches and charities to have the same freedom.
Never mind that Australia has signed up to UN conventions guaranteeing freedom of religion, including the right of parents to educate their children according to their religious beliefs.
Acceding to a Greens motion targeted at religious schools, the then Attorney General Rob Hulls ordered separate reviews of protections for religious freedom – the exceptions and exemptions under the Equal Opportunity Act.
“With the introduction of the Human Rights Charter, it is timely to review these exceptions and exemptions to ensure they are compatible with the Charter,” Mr Hulls said at the time.
The use of the Charter of Rights to undermine religious freedom is further reason why the Victorian Government’s current review of the Charter should recommend its repeal.