Talk to us

CathNews, the most frequently visited Catholic website in Australia, is your daily news service featuring Catholics and Catholicism from home and around the world, Mass on Demand and on line, prayer, meditation, reflections, opinion, and reviews. And, what's more - it's free!

John Howard is concerned about an ideological war being waged against religious groups (The Catholic Weekly/Giovanni Portelli)

Former Prime Minister John Howard has defended the right of faith-based schools to hire staff who share the same religious beliefs and values as “common sense”, saying that it should be respected in any new legislation affecting religious freedoms. Source: The Catholic Weekly.

He also denounced the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ proposal to rephrase the question on religion in the 2026 Census, saying it exposes an ideological war being waged against religious groups by public servants inside the “Canberra bubble”.

Questioning why governments would seek to restrict the ability of such schools to preserve their religious “ambience”, Mr Howard said he thought most Australians would agree that it made sense not to outlaw belief as a factor in their hiring decisions.

Mr Howard’s comments come as the Albanese Government considers its promised reforms to anti-discrimination legislation which will need to address the question of how religious schools can remain an option for parents who want their children educated within a faith tradition.

“I feel very strongly that if you send your child to a Catholic school you expect them to be educated in the ambience of the religion and I think it’s outrageous that that’s not accepted, and I think whatever changes are made to religious freedom and the like that has got to be respected,” Mr Howard said.

A number of Catholic faith and school leaders agreed that Mr Howard’s comments in favour of robust religious freedoms in Australia were “common sense.”

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said religion and faith-based institutions have made an “enormous contribution to the life of our country”, whether in education, health, welfare, and “general community cohesiveness”.

“Mr Howard recognises this and brings clarity and common sense about a matter that should not be controversial,” Archbishop Fisher added.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said that many would agree that parents’ rights to choose schools that faithfully express their worldview must be supported and facilitated.

“This necessarily requires that a school must have the right to employ staff who share, or are willing to support, the ethos and values of the school.”


Former PM John Howard stands up for religious freedom (By Marilyn Rodrigues, The Catholic Weekly)


John Howard demands religious freedom for schools (The Australian)