Australia Equal Opportunity Employment

Australian Religious Groups Fight Changes to Equal Opportunity Laws

Australia Equal Opportunity Employment

Three religious organizations have decided to increase their campaign to prevent a proposal from the Australian Labor Party involving changes to equal opportunity laws in the state of Victoria.

Their objections center on the proposed requirement that religious organizations will have to justify a need to discriminate in their hiring practices.  The changes would stipulate that a religious organization would have to show how the employee’s religion is relevant to the position they are applying for.  It would also make it more difficult for these organizations, including religious schools, to refuse to hire someone based on sexuality, gender identification or religion. For example, a Christian religious organization would not be allowed to discriminate against a Buddhist custodian, since his religious beliefs do not have any basis on the way he performs his job’s duties.

The three groups, the Australian Christian Lobby, Catholic Education Office and Christian Schools Australia have criticized the move by the Australian Labor Party to make amendments to the equal opportunity laws in the state.  The chief executive of Christian Schools Australia, Stephen O’Doherty, called the changes “an ideological attack on religion.” He vowed his organization would endeavor to block the changes by lobbying MPs in the upper house.  Director of the Victoria arm of the Australian Christian Lobby Dan Flynn has said his organization would call upon its thousands of members to instigate a letter-writing campaign.  Flynn’s concern with the proposed change in the law is that it could end up forcing Christian schools to hire applicants “who are fundamentally opposed” to the central purposes of the school.

Advocates of the changes tout them as necessary and vital, citing instances of discrimination against individuals due to their sexuality.  Martin Foley, the first Equality Minister, also pointed to a period in 2010 when several religious communities, even the Catholic Church, supported the same reforms being proposed by the Australian Labor Party when they were enacted, until the Coalition took power and reversed them a year later.


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