Free2Believe provides an update at www.free2believe.org.au on the Final Report from the Victorian Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee (SARC) that was published last month.
This Report reviewed proposed changes to religious exemptions and exceptions in the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 1995 and is available here.
“A Minority Report published by four non-government MPs of the SARC committee, gives important insights into concerns resulting from the review process and is also available here.
Although there were some positive conclusions in the SARC committee’s Final Report, a key recommendation , if adopted, would see uncertainty and erosion of religious freedom in Victoria because it would mean that employment by religious bodies and schools would be subjected to an inherent requirement test .
This test would be used to determine whether or not religious schools or organisations could exercise the freedom currently available to them to employ according to its ethos and religious beliefs. There remains strong concern that ultimately, VCAT would have the power to make decisions on important matters of religious principle .
This recommendation is consistent with a media statement issued by Victorian Attorney General, Rob Hulls in September where he said:
“In relation to employment, the religious nature of the organisation or school will need be taken into account in determining whether a particular position needs to be filled by someone who adheres to that religion’s beliefs.”
Mr Hulls views are completely opposite to that expressed during the inquiry and encapsulated by the Communications Officer for the Association of Independent Schools:
“we are of the firm belief that the people at schools are in the best position to employ those people they feel are the best people to educate students attending those schools, based on the values and tenets of those schools, whether they be faith or not.”
Although the Victorian Government will have to respond to SARC’s Final Report before May 2010, it is under no obligation to accept any of its recommendations.
The Report leaves many lingering uncertainties, but one thing is for sure: religious people and communities will be letting themselves down and future generations of believers, if they do not continue to carefully scrutinize the movements of Mr Hulls and the changes to our equal opportunity laws over the coming months.”