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December 14, 2016

The Equal Opportunity Amendment (Religious Exceptions) Bill 2016 was defeated in the Victorian Parliament’s Legislative Council on Tuesday. The purpose of the Bill was 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’. As several Members of the parliament pointed out, the effect of this Bill would have been to erode and reduce religious freedom. Freedom of association and conscience, which form the foundation of any true democracy, remain better protected with the defeat of the Bill. Schools, churches and faith-based organisations such as World Vision would have been required to employ individuals who did not represent the values of the organisation. The Labor Party had exempted itself from the effect of this Bill. The majority of Victorians want the Government to leave them alone. Private religious institutions want to be able to peaceably operate without unreasonable regulation by the State. Many parents had contacted members of the Victorian Parliament asking that their right to choose schools with values in line with their faith and beliefs be upheld. School communities, not the government, should have the right to determine who raises their children. Mr Thompson, Member for Sandringham said, “Government bureaucracies should not dictate the employment prerequisites of faith-based organisations. Australia’s Founding Fathers, in drafting the Constitution, envisioned a nation where religious freedom would be respected.” The Victorian Shadow-Attorney General stated, “This Bill was never necessary and it sought to remove a longstanding protection in our law for the right to religious freedom. This protection has been a part of Victorian law for decades under the Equal Opportunity Act”. Seventeen MPs stood on the steps of Parliament on Tuesday with a banner declaring support for the right to religious freedom. The proposed legislation shows how out of touch the Government is with the Victorian community and demonstrates Labor’s skewed vision of the role of government.