Crackdown on Religious Schools

Marriage_Alliance_Crackdown_Religious_Schools.jpgMarriage continues to be a crucial topic in culture. While certain groups may well argue that redefining marriage only affects same-sex couples, the truth is that there are serious consequences that will affect freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. 

Legislation recently introduced into Victorian Parliament presents a compelling example of this: under proposed laws, religious schools would have their choice and ability to hire staff whose beliefs and principles align with those of the schools, stripped away. As The Age reported:

The Andrews government's revamp of Victorian equal opportunity laws has been condemned as "anti-religious" by faith-based groups, who say it threatens their right to freedom of religion.

The proposed legislation introduces an “inherent requirement” test that would remove the ability of religious schools and other religious bodies to choose candidates who would uphold the organisation’s ethos.  Instead, the onus would be on the school or religious organisation to prove that a commitment to their beliefs was necessary for the performance of the role.

The law would mean that it would be the courts – and not the school – which decide the extent to which an employee’s faith is important in a faith-based school. 

Parents who choose to send their children to religious schools would have their choice undermined by the government’s attempt to make decisions for the school and the parents.

No government would ever dream of introducing legislation which would require a political party to employ staff who did not agree with the party’s platform, so why would they hold a school or religious organisation to a different standard?

The proposed legislation is a clear attack on basic freedoms: every school should be able to hire those who will commit to uphold the school’s ethos, not who the government forces them to hire. Beyond the question of marriage, legislation such as this takes away the freedom of Australian parents to choose where to send their children to learn about the values, morals, and teachings the parents deem are best for their children. As The Age also noted:

Catholic Education Melbourne executive director Stephen Elder said it was important that Catholic schools had the freedom to employ staff who supported the Catholic faith and did not undermine a school's ethos.

"Parents choose to have their children educated in Catholic schools because our traditions are not only passed on through what is taught, but what is practised and what is witnessed in our learning communities."

The definition of marriage holds together many other imperatives that allow Australians to live with multiple freedoms. If marriage were to be redefined, it would pave the way for the government to destroy the fundamental idea that schools should be able to hire people who agree with the principles on which the school is run.

This crackdown on religious schools is only one part of the story. Redefining marriage will require Australians to surrender their freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, and their freedom of speech. The government has no right to take away individual choice: it is the people of Australia who must decide whether they will accept a new definition of marriage, or support marriage as it has always been understood. 

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