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More anti-Christian bigotry in Victoria

By Bill Muehlenberg - posted Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Things are growing more alarming by the day in the state of Victoria. I have documented a number of rather ominous developments here under the radical leftist Labor government of Dan Andrews. He seems obsessed with curtailing Christianity and religious freedom while he implements one activist minority group agenda after another.

His latest attack of faith and freedom comes in the form of the Equal Opportunity Amendment (Religious Exceptions) Bill 2016. It is a frightening proposal which everyone concerned about freedom and religious freedom should know about.

The full details of the proposed changes can be found here.


Here are the relevant bits which are of real concern:

A Bill for an Act to amend the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 to modify the religious exceptions in relation to the employment of a person by religious bodies and schools….


Clause 1 sets out the purpose of the Bill, which is to amend the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 to modify the religious exceptions in relation to the employment of a person by a religious body or school. In particular, the Bill reinstates an 'inherent requirements test' for a religious body or school that may seek to rely on a religious defence to discriminate in the area of employment.

Clause 2 provides for the Bill to come into operation on a day or days to be proclaimed, or otherwise on 1 March 2017.

All this may not seem like too much of a big deal but it actually is. A bit of history is required here to understand just what is going on. Almost two years ago when this idea was first floated I wrote it up, so let me repeat part of what I wrote back then:

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 was brought into the Victorian Parliament by the Labor Party. It greatly threatened religious freedom of organisations, groups, schools and so on. It was bad enough that an amendment to it appeared in 2011 when the Liberals were in power. The then Baillieu Government brought in the changes to protect religious freedom, viewing the 2010 legislation as being 'a far-reaching attack on the freedom of faith based organisations'. Numerous religious groups welcomed the changes. For example, Independent Schools Victoria said that religious schools 'ought to be able to choose staff they believe are the most appropriate for their school.' But now Labor wants to undo these changes, and take away religious freedoms of ordinary Victorians. According to their official Platform, Labor will 'Reverse the Coalition Government's amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act, including the reinstatement of 'bona fide occupational requirement' limitation on the religious exemptions and powers for the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to deal with systemic discrimination on their own motion'.

So this is an ongoing fight, and it centres on religious schools having autonomy and freedom, and not being forced to contravene their own beliefs to keep the activist State happy. Back in 2009 when the original bill was being debated, many groups expressed their concerns about the draconian anti-Christian bigotry on display here.

Rev Dr Mark Durie put in a great submission back then which I quoted from at the time. He said in part:


Churches employ many staff who are not clergy, but whose function is regarded as integral to the religious vocation and life of the Christian community. In a congregational context, roles such as receptionist, playgroup coordinator or caretaker are not simply 'secular' functions devoid of spiritual content. They are understood as involving the exercise of what are regarded as charismata 'spiritual gifts' (such as hospitality and helps: see Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4), and are to be conducted as an act of service to God, and as a witness of faith to the community. It would prove impossible to impose secular morality – include secular sexual ethics – upon churches' processes for choosing employees or volunteers in such contexts by limiting exemptions to clergy or some narrow secularist conception of 'core' functions. There are serious difficulties with demanding that religious groups justify to secular judges what constitutes 'reasonable' religious practices, and what does or does not accord with religious doctrines. To do so would require Tribunals and Courts to make wide‐reaching and complex determinations on which religious beliefs and practices are reasonable or authorized by the state.

So we are now back where we started, with the secular left Andrews' government again wanting to strip us of religious freedom, and turn churches and religious instruction into the grey conformity of Statist group think. But religious freedom is far too important to lose without a fight.

To see just how bad these proposed changes are, simply consider this basic fact: Dan Andrews and his Labor colleagues would find it unthinkable if they were forced to employ dedicated Liberal or National Party members in the name of "equal opportunity" or "anti-discrimination".

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About the Author

Bill Muehlenberg is Secretary of the Family Council of Victoria, and lectures in ethics and philosophy at various Melbourne theological colleges.

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