16 November 2021
The National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) has called on the Morrison Government to
move on long-awaited religious freedom legislation, saying proposed reforms to Victoria’s Equal
Opportunity Act could curb the ability of Catholic schools to act in accordance with their ethos,
and lead to unnecessary lawfare.
NCEC executive director Jacinta Collins said governments are obligated to respect and protect
the religious freedom of parents who choose to send their children to a school where they will be
taught in accordance with their religious convictions.
“The unprecedented character of Victoria’s proposed reforms will create confusion for Catholic
schools, particularly in the employment of staff, and could potentially lead to unnecessary
litigation,” Ms Collins said.
“The proposed Victorian reforms take a narrow view of religious belief and activity which would
inhibit the ability of Catholic schools to preserve their ethos,” she said.
“The definitions are not sensitive to the way faith is taught and expressed in a school context and
the proportionality test of balancing religious rights against other rights will be a legal minefield.”
“Both federal major parties have indicated that religious schools, and parents of students, are
entitled to require employees to act in their roles in ways that uphold the ethos and values of that
faith, and that this requirement may be taken into account when a person is first employed and in
the course of their employment,” Ms Collins said.
“To operate as a Catholic school, in identity and mission, all members of the school community
are expected to act in a way that supports the ethos and values of the school.
“The curriculum, pedagogy and day to day activities of the school, including liturgical activities,
are underpinned by a Catholic worldview and this could be compromised if Catholic schools don’t
have the freedom to employ staff who are supportive of their mission.
“We need federal legislation finalised as quickly as possible to ensure this entitlement is not
eroded by state legislation.”