Uniting Vic.Tas is urging the Federal Government to withdraw its proposed Religious Discrimination Bill fearing it will cause unnecessary distress and hardship.
CEO Bronwyn Pike said the Bill in its current form has the potential to allow people and organisations to use faith as a means to cause harm to clients, customers, staff and volunteers.
“Religious freedom must always be balanced against basic human rights,” Ms Pike said.
“Although we come from different faiths, religions and cultures, we are united in our focus on community and social service.
“We’re extremely proud of the work we do. Allowing people of faith to discriminate against people of a different faith or on the basis of their sexuality or marital status is completely against what we stand for.
“We don’t support the Bill as it currently stands, because we don’t believe it will benefit the community.
“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 proposed Religious Discrimination Bill has the potential to create additional barriers for vulnerable people in accessing housing, employment or alcohol and drug or mental health support services.
“For people who are marginalised and experiencing social exclusion, and have a limited ability to self-advocate, this Bill is likely to cause further harm and distress.
“We urge the Government to legislate to protect religious freedom without removing protections from those who need it. Our laws should protect all of us, equally.
“There are no grounds on which religion can be a justification for saying or doing harmful things. This Bill goes too far and must be withdrawn.”