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NSW bishops sound alarm on religious freedom

The Catholic bishops of NSW and the ACT have said that recent recommendations by a number of government bodies challenge the Church's right to run its schools, hospitals and social welfare services in accordance with the tenets of the Catholic faith.

They highlighted their concern last week in a major statement titled Religious Freedom in NSW - a Right and a Responsibility.

The bishops are particularly concerned by the Anti-Discrimination Board's attempts to intervene in the employment practices of religious bodies. They argue the Board is seeking to define core and non-core religious activities, thereby narrowing the definition of religious activity.

Bishops' spokesman, Bishop Luc Matthys of Armidale, argued it is 'beyond the competence of government... to try and define Catholicism'.

He said: "The Catholic Church has always given practical expression to its faith through its schools, its hospitals and now its services for the aged and welfare services."

The Statement insists that activities including care for a disadvantaged student are as validly religious as specifically spiritual pursuits such as morning prayer.

"Likewise, when resources are applied to palliative care in a Catholic hospital, it engages in an activity as validly religious as the pastoral care offered by its chaplain."

The statement is available on Sydney's Archdiocesan website.

Catholic Communications (Sydney)