Freedom of religion is on the decline in Australia, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has warned. Source: The Australian.
Where Australians used to “live and let live” beside neighbours of various religions, cultures and ethnicities, there is now a “hard-edged secularism” determined to shut out people of faith and punish religious institutions such as faith-based schools, he said.
Archbishop Fisher, who has returned to Australia after a Vatican synod on youth, called on the Morrison government to release the Ruddock report on religious freedom, which it has kept under wraps since May.
The delay had enabled selective leaks of the report’s recommendations ahead of the Wentworth by-election, fuelling calls to strip faith-based schools of their few existing protections.
Archbishop Fisher, a lawyer and university ethicist before becoming a bishop, said churches were entitled to hire principals, teachers and other staff whose beliefs and values were in line with Church teaching on gender, sexuality, marriage and other matters.
“Young people can smell a phony,” Archbishop Fisher said, which was why leaders and teachers in Catholic schools needed to reflect Catholic teaching not just in paying lip service, but in their beliefs and personal lives.
The existing law allowing faith-based schools limited exemptions had been applied with common sense, he said. A maths or science teacher, for example, who was discreet about his or her relationship would not be an issue, whereas a principal or religion teacher who was a campaigner for teachings contrary to the Catholic faith or gave a very public witness to some alternative could not honestly teach what the Church teaches.
“A faith-based school is a very particular kind of community, and a Catholic school should be allowed to be a Catholic school.”
The current laws, while applied in a way that did not exclude anyone from seeking a Catholic education, allowed schools to point out Church teaching to parents at the time they enrolled their child and to negotiate these matters sensitively without fear of being accused of “discrimination”.
Release Ruddock report, says Catholic archbishop Anthony Fisher (The Australian)