Good Shepherd joins faith-based organisations to voice concerns about Religious Discrimination Bill

14 February 2020

Leaders from Victoria’s most prominent faith-based and religious community service organisations have come together to urge the Federal Government not to implement the Religious Discrimination Bill as proposed.

Anglicare Victoria, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand, Jesuit Social Services, Jewish Care Victoria, McAuley Community Services for Women, Sacred Heart Mission and Uniting Vic. Tas have today joined to voice their concerns about the latest draft of the Religious Discriminations Bill and its potential to allow people and organisations to use faith as a means to cause harm to clients, customers, staff and volunteers.

Although we come from different faiths, religions and cultures, we are united in our focus on community and social service.

We are proud of the work we do. We believe a divisive national conversation about whether people of faith should be able to discriminate against people of no, or different faiths, is not in the national interest. It is our view that religious freedom must be balanced against the rights of the people.

Religious organisations such as ours have demonstrated that it is possible to uphold the religious faith on which our work is founded – providing services to anyone who needs them – while at the same time respecting the diverse faith of our workforce, volunteers, clients and residents.

We are concerned that the legislation will have unintended consequences, where expressions of religious belief will be privileged above the rights and interests of other Australians in being free from discrimination.

The proposed Religious Discrimination Bill has the potential to create additional barriers for people in accessing medical services and housing, engaging in employment and participating in social and public life.

For people who are marginalised and experiencing social exclusion, and have a limited ability to self-advocate, this is likely to cause further harm and distress.

We do not support the Religious Discrimination Bill as it currently stands, as we do not believe it will benefit the Australian community.

We urge the Federal Government to legislate to protect religious freedom without removing protections from those who need it. Our laws should protect all of us, equally.

Read the joint statement: Joint statement by Faith Based orgs

Read the media release: Media release by Faith Based orgs

For media enquiries, contact Clare Kermond: clare.kermond@goodshep.org.au