The St Vincent de Paul Society has hit out at the Morrison Government after the Catholic charity was named as a beneficiary of the religious discrimination bill.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter unveiled the second draft of the controversial bill at a press conference yesterday.
Porter explained one of the 11 changes to the bill meant “organisations like St Vincent de Paul can make decisions in areas such as staff based on the faith of that organisation.”
“A religious organisation, a church or a religious educational institution or St Vincent de Paul, [can] make a decision based on faith, which might mean preferring someone of their own faith in an employment position,” Mr Porter said.
However, Vinnies’ national president Claire Victory wasn’t impressed. She said Vinnies hadn’t commented on the bill at all and was “surprised and disappointed” by the name-drop.
She said Vinnies “does not require employees and volunteers working in the society’s commercial activities to be Catholic.”
The charity has “never required this of people working in our shops” nor at its secretariat, she said.
“Certain roles within our conferences and councils which have particular responsibility for overseeing our mission and Catholic ethos are usually filled by Catholics,” she said.
“But they may also be filled by people who share basic Catholic beliefs.”
In a statement, the charity told the government, “Don’t use Vinnies in the religious freedom debate.”
“We’re not happy that anyone who is in need of assistance or is seeking to work or volunteer with us might think we would discriminate,” Ms Victory said.
Scott Morrison and Christian Porter didn’t mention any other charity or organisation by name during Tuesday’s press conference.
Vinnies will ‘offer assistance to anyone in need’
Vinnies did not make a submission on the religious discrimination legislation and Claire Victory said they don’t intend to.
“In engaging staff and volunteers, the Society does not discriminate on the basis of religion, race, disability, gender or sexual orientation,” she said.
“It is not our intention to do so, even in the event of a change in legislation.”
She described Vinnies as an organisation “committed to human dignity and respect.”
“We strive to ensure that everyone feels welcome and comfortable in approaching Vinnies to serve or seek a helping hand in times of crisis,” she said.
“Our shops and services are places of welcome.
“We engage a large number of staff and volunteers from all walks of life committed to offering assistance to anyone in need.”
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