Bishop Gauci says last minute changes to the bill “drastically and unacceptably reduce the right of faith-based schools to employstaff based on their religious belief or activity”.Protest against NT anti-discrimination bill that could force Catholic schools to close – The Catholic Leader
Church protest: Darwin Bishop Charles Gauci leads a protest on the steps of Darwin’s St Mary’s Cathedral.
A PROTEST on the steps of Darwin’s St Mary’s Cathedral appears a last stand by faith and community leaders to persuade the Northern Territory Government to abandon a bill set to drastically remove religious freedoms.
The Labor Government’s contentious anti-discrimination legislation is set to go before the NT parliament this week, and opponents of the bill, including Darwin Bishop Charles Gauci want any voting deferred until a federal government review is complete.
Bishop Gauci says last minute changes to the bill “drastically and unacceptably reduce the right of faith-based schools to employ
staff based on their religious belief or activity”.
He has gone so far as to say the Territory’s Catholic schools may be forced to close.
In a radio interview last week Bishop Gauci expressed serious concerns and ‘unintended consequences’ for Catholic Education NT’s 18 colleges and schools which employ 1200 staff and cater for 5000 students.
‘The very reason we have Faith Schools is that we can promote the ethos of that faith. It’s about protecting the rights of those parents who want their children to be brought up in the values that they choose,” Bishop Gauci said.
“So, it’s a form of discrimination against those families by imposing on them a belief system that they don’t want, so, in effect its reverse discrimination.
‘If we cannot have faith schools to be ‘genuine faith schools’ where its respectful of everybody, where we give people an idea of other people’s beliefs in the society we live in, and have intellectual respect for values and ideas, if we cannot have that, then what’s the point of having them?
“We will have to seriously consider closing them and then all the children will have to go to state schools.”
Bishop Gauci said the Church did not discriminate based on sexuality and would employ gay teachers.
“If a person is gay or whatever and are respectful of our ethos of course, they are human beings. We love them. We respect them – students, teachers, whatever. We’re not about discriminating against people in that sense,” Bishop Gauci said.
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“When they come to our school the teaching they uphold in the public stance needs to be in-line and respectful, not criticising or undermining what we teach.”
Executive Officer, Australian Association of Christian School, Vanessa Cheng, said: “Like any organisation, our people define our culture.
“To provide a genuine faith-based education we must be able to employ staff who share our beliefs,” she said.
“It is deeply disappointing that the Northern Territory Government has shown a complete disregard for the fundamental human right of religious freedom and have ignored the serious concerns faith leaders have about this Bill.”
A vote on the Labor’s anti-discrimination bill amendments is expected during this week’s parliamentary sittings.