MELBOURNE’S Catholic adoption agency will be breaking the law for adhering to the Church’s teachings on the family if new Victorian adoption legislation passes.
Victorian Parliament recently announced a bill to allow same-sex couples to adopt, making it illegal for adoption services to discriminate against adopting parents because of their sexual orientation.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has denied a religious exemption to the bill which is still required to pass the Upper House before becoming law.
If passed, the new law would make it difficult for Melbourne-based adoption agency CatholicCare to continue providing the service and abide by Church teachings.
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart urged the parliament to protect the agency with a religious exemption.
Such an exemption is in place for agencies in New South Wales.
“The Catholic position on marriage and family holds that the well-being of the community and children are best served when they experience the love of both a mother and father in a safe, secure and stable relationship,” Archbishop Hart said.
Although Archbishop Hart faces a wave of disagreement about the Church’s teachings on marriage and family, he asked for “fair play” to ensure Catholic and non-Catholic children benefitted from CatholicCare’s services.
CatholicCare chief executive officer Fr Joseph Caddy said the agency appreciated Archbishop Hart’s call for a religious exemption.
“Given the Government is legislating to allow same-sex couples to adopt, in line with the Archbishop’s statements, CatholicCare would be seeking an exemption that would mean we remain consistent with the Church’s understanding of the family,” Fr Caddy said.
He confirmed CatholicCare would not be able to deny same-sex couples on the grounds of their sexual orientation from adopting if they enquired through the agency, and that raised a conflict of religious conscience.
Australian Christian Lobby Victorian director Dan Flynn said Christians “would be shocked” if the bill “removed protection for religious freedom or freedom of conscience”.
“These amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act seem to be a blatant move designed to sideline Christian charities that provide adoption services,” Mr Flynn said.
“This is one of the most blatant attacks on religious freedom and freedom of conscience we have ever seen.
“It is sending a message to Christians and people of faith that it does not respect the views of people who disagree with the Premier and Minister for Equality.”
Other groups are concerned about the welfare of children and their right to be raised by a mother and a father.
FamilyVoice Victoria director Peter Stevens was concerned the bill would “remove two safeguards for children – stability and an optimal parenting environment”.
“Where possible, children should be brought up in a stable context with the love of both a mum and dad,” he said.
Mr Stevens called on Victorian MPs to reject the Government’s bill on the grounds children would be disadvantaged.
“At the very least, religious groups who care deeply about the welfare of children need exemptions from this legislation to protect their fundamental right to freedom of conscience and belief,” he said.
The Government needs 21 votes in Victoria’s Upper House to pass the adoption legislation changes.
– Emilie Ng