Sydney (Agenzia Fides) – The approval of the "Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill", intended to include and harmonise existing anti-discrimination legislation in society could backfire on Christian Churches and Christian organisations. The bill being discussed by the Australian parliament, in fact would suspend "exemptions" hitherto enjoyed by Churches and religious organisations which run schools hospitals, social assistance centres, and social institutes and centres belonging to various different Christian denominations. Churches, in fact, were exempt from hiring homosexual teachers, including homosexual persons in services for the adoption of children, and from including same sex couples in services offered to hetero couples. The new Bill suspends these exemptions. An Australian senate commission has stated "no organisation should enjoy dispensation from the principle of non-discrimination when involved in supplying services for the community in general ".
In a statement sent to Fides, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Australia says that the recommendations formulated by the Senate Commission "represent a threat to religious freedom " and could have a serious impact on "social services supplied by Catholic healthcare structures and Catholic schools". The anti-discrimination legislation, approved in principle by the country’s Christian Churches, "needs to find a balance between the values in question: the fundamental value of religious freedom must be recognised as a significant part of our lifestyle in a pluralist society ", the Bishops remarked. Opposition to the new norms was also expressed by Robert Johnston spokesman of the Australian Association of Christian Schools . (PA) (Agenzia Fides 22/2/2013)