Media Release: Friday, July 10, 2009

Well intentioned but misguided ‘rights-based’ laws have already brought unwelcome notoriety to Victoria and new moves to clamp down on religious freedom should be resisted to avoid repeats of the ‘Catch the Fire’ religious vilification fiasco.

Australian Christian Lobby Victorian State Director Rob Ward today lodged ACL’s submission to the Scrutiny of Act and Regulations Committee Inquiry into the Exceptions and Exemptions to the Equal Opportunity Act 1995.

Mr Ward warned that faith-based charities, schools and organisations could have their activities severely constrained by the inquiry’s suggestions that religious bodies loose the right to employ staff who share their values.

“The exceptions and exemptions for religious bodies have struck a good balance between religious freedom and fairness for more than 20 years.

“The public manifestation of Christians working their faith out in community, as taught by that religion, is the reason why the church has historically initiated so much of the welfare we see in today’s society and continues to bear a disproportionate (but not unwelcome) load,” Mr Ward said.

Mr Ward said public expression of religion is specifically protected by Article 18 of the United Nations Charter of International Civil and Political Rights and yet options floated by the Victorian inquiry put this at risk.

“Political parties are not expected to employ people who do not share their ethos. Why are we having a Parliamentary inquiry suggesting religious organisations should be denied this freedom?

“It is ironic that this inquiry, which was instigated within months of the enactment of Victoria’s Charter of Rights, is putting at risk basic religious freedoms whose outworking has served Victoria’s religious and wider community well and without controversy for years.

“While Christians are often at the forefront of protecting the human rights of society’s most vulnerable, the use of Charters of rights as instruments to erode basic religious freedoms makes people of faith wary and particularly concerned about where a proposed Federal Charter of Rights might lead,” Mr Ward said.

Contact Rob Ward