The St Vincent de Paul Society has slammed the federal government’s suggestion that the charity would benefit from the proposed religious discrimination bill.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter this week revealed a second draft of the controversial bill, which could see religious bodies exempt from anti-discrimination laws and legally able to fire or refuse employment to people for being LGBTIQ.
Porter named the Catholic charity at a press conference, stating that “organisations like St Vincent de Paul can make decisions in areas such as staff based on the faith of that organisation,” QNews has reported.
No other organisation was named in the press conference.
St Vincent de Paul Society national president Claire Victory said that the charity had not commented on the bill, and was “surprised and disappointed” to be mentioned in that context.
Victory said that the organisation “does not require employees and volunteers working in the society’s commercial activities to be Catholic” and has “never required this of people working in [its] shops” or secretariat.
“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.”
The St Vincent de Paul Society told the government in statement, “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,” said Victory.
“In engaging staff and volunteers, the Society does not discriminate on the basis of religion, race, disability, gender or sexual orientation.
“It is not our intention to do so, even in the event of a change in legislation.”
She added that the charity strives to make all people feel “welcome and comfortable in approaching Vinnies to serve or seek a helping hand in times of crisis”.
“We engage a large number of staff and volunteers from all walks of life committed to offering assistance to anyone in need,” Victory said.
LGBTIQ advocates have criticised the bill, saying that it will legitimise discrimination and bigotry.
Greens LGBTIQ spokesperson Janet Rice called it a “Trojan horse for hate.”
Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown said the “unacceptable” bill will “immunise bigotry”.
The government is accepting public feedback on the bill until the end of January.