JEWISH Care Victoria has added its voice to a widespread call by Australian faith-based community service organisations to reject the federal government’s Religious Discrimination Bill.
The Jewish support organisation joined Anglicare Victoria, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand, McAuley Community Services for Women, Sacred Heart Mission and Uniting Victoria/Tasmania to voice concerns about the draft legislation because of its potential to allow people and organisations to use faith 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,” a joint statement declared.
“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.”
The joint statement voiced concern about “unintended consequences” in which “expressions of religious belief will be privileged above the rights and interests of other Australians in being free from discrimination”.
Urging the government to legislate to protect religious freedom without removing protections from those who need it, the organisations stated, “We do not support the Religious Discrimination Bill as it currently stands, as we do not believe it will benefit the Australian community.”
Jewish Care Victoria CEO Bill Appleby added that his organisation “recognises that we, as a community, are at our strongest when we celebrate our differences and stand alongside each other, not when we exclude, discriminate, or isolate those that do not share our own lived experiences. Legislating the right to judge a person’s value based on their ability, religion, sexuality, gender expression, or marital status is not what civil societies are built upon”.
Jewish Care staff provide their services “inclusively, without judgment, and based only on the person’s needs – it is, in fact, the rich diversity within our organisation that allows us to meet such a wide range of needs”.
Meanwhile, Jewish protesters joined a rally at the State Library of Victoria on February 9 against the proposed legislation.