Freedom of Religion is under attack in Victoria where the state government is looking to introduce new legislation that restricts Islamic, Christian and other faith schools on who they can and can’t employ. 

This would mean that Islamic schools may be forced to employ staff members that disagree with their Islamic ethos and religious beliefs.   The worst part is, this infringement of religious liberties, a birthright of every human being,  is done beneath the sheep’s wool of “equality.”

In a country where 80% of Muslim people have experienced unfavourable treatment, it’s no surprise  the Andrew’s government is taking a top down approach to further fueling division and discrimination by using the Equal Opportunity Act changes as a facade to further marginalise faith communities.  (1)

The Guardian reports, “Religious schools in Victoria will be banned from discriminating against staff on the basis of their sexuality, gender identity or marital status, under legislation to be introduced by the state government later this year.

Religious schools in Victoria currently have the power to sack or refuse to hire LGBTIQ+ people on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity, and marital status.” (2)

There is no other country in the world with these types of proposed laws.  (3)

It’s interesting how such aggressive measures were never taken for equal opportunity where Australian Muslims were concerned.  This includes the systemic discrimination against hijab wearing Muslim women, who’ve repeatedly had to settle for jobs they’re overqualified for, or the young people who’ve been denied equal opportunity in employment due to their ‘Muslims sounding’ name.

Understandably many faith based school communities are deeply concerned with the proposed changes.  One of the main reasons why parents choose to send their children to Islamic schools is the distinct Islamic values and ethos the school is built upon.

It’s been a tough couple of years and in the lead up to the federal and state elections, Australia’s faith communities must take their vote seriously. 

It’s no longer an option to keep voting for the same familiar members, who aren’t doing enough to protect freedom of religion or proactively advocating against racism and Islamophobia in Australia. 

Australian Muslims must side with members who demonstrate a commitment to protecting freedom of religion for all, in line with International Human Rights. (4)

It’s important to especially be cautious where words like “Equality” and “Inclusion” are being thrown around. These don’t necessarily mean they support policies that are inclusive of Australian Muslims or in the best interests of marginalised ethnic and faith communities.

A campaign by National Secular Lobby with the slogan Don’t Divide Us, is one such example of a campaign that appears to be about inclusion, but is run by a lobby group who are committed to “removing religious privilege in legislation.”  How is that inclusive of faith groups? 

Groups with aggressive ideologies that are anti-religion or anti-God sometimes use these words to lure in voters from ethnic, migrant and faith communities, many who mistakingly  believe they’re voting for someone who will stand up for their human right of religious liberty.  

Instead, vote for members that explicitly advocate for protecting freedom of religion in Australia, are commitment to tackling Islamophobia, dismantling institutionalised racism and oppression in all its forms. 

These are the underlying issues causing intersectional barriers and inequality in employment, housing, quality education, participation in politics at all levels of government,  in leadership positions, in sports, and ofcoursr the reduced services and infrastructure per capita in our highly diverse, low-socioeconomic regions. 

The same can’t be said for all minority groups.  

Instead of using the EOA to pit one minority group against another with these ‘othering’ legislations, we really need leaders that can develop policies and legislation that don’t infringe on the freedoms of vulnerable and marginalised communities, and call it equality.

Pitting one minority group against the other is not equality nor inclusion.  It’s a part of an aggresssive secular agenda with the greater end goal of erasing all trace of God from society.

At the next election, vote for members that are pro-collaboration, pro-community building and anti-racism and Islamophobia.