Fears narrow protections could leave Church workers vulnerable

The MacDonald family (The Australian/Stuart McEvoy)

The director of the Melbourne Archdiocese's marriage office has raised concerns that legalising same-sex marriage will restrict freedom to talk and teach about a Catholic view of marriage, The Australian reports.

Matthew MacDonald and his wife Julie are committed Catholics who take responsibility for teaching their children about marriage, which they believe should be between a man and woman.

They send their children to a Catholic school because they feel safe that the values they adhere to will also be taught there.

“We’re sending them to a school that will hold up what we believe to be true, whether that’s politically popular or not,” Mr MacDonald said.

But the couple are concerned that a future same-sex marriage bill, without clear religious protections, will leave teachers vulnerable to prosecution under anti-discrimination laws.

West Australian Liberal senator Dean Smith has proposed a bill that includes religious protections for clergy and some celebrants involved in solemnising marriages. But Mr MacDonald is worried this is too narrowly focused on those performing the ceremony.

“Our concern is that under the bill that Dean Smith’s put forward, those kind of protections aren’t provided to teachers or principals who employ teachers at schools,” he said, “and that they won’t be given the same freedom that they have at the moment to teach what we as parents would want them to teach our children.”

Mr MacDonald also has another reason to be concerned about religious freedoms: his work. As director of the Life, Marriage and Family Office in the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, he spends much of his day talking about the Catholic view on marriage. “Part of my work involves talking to couples who are preparing to be married,” he said. “One of the things that we’re conscious of is that, at the moment, I’m quite free to say what the Catholic Church teaches about marriage.

“Dean Smith’s bill only protects religious ministers in the context of a marriage ceremony. It doesn’t protect me as a lay person working in a church agency talking about marriage. It gives me absolutely no protection whatsoever.”

FULL STORY

Church’s marriage office lay worker fears for freedom of speech (The Australian)

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