A couple of chilling accounts of how faith based welfare introduced in Australia by Howard's right wing government has unleashed widespread discrimination and abuses of freedom of belief. Jocelynne Scutt writing in onlineopinion describes how the new system discriminates against non-believers and generally violates the privacy of all unemployed Australians:
"You’re an atheist. Would you want to give all your private details - bank accounts, date of birth, job applications, positions held, educational status, assets (if any), marital status, number of children, number of dependents and any other personal data to the Salvation Army? You’re a committed Buddhist. Would you choose to reveal your personal information to the Catholic Church? You’re a Methodist. Would you want the Anglicans to know all your private business?
No? Then make sure you hang on to your job and don’t become unemployed. Put up with whatever conditions your employer imposes or, like every other Australian dependent upon CentreLink because out of work, you’ll be hooked up to a church agency and obliged to disclose everything..The unemployed are no longer allowed to maintain their privacy or demand constitutional coverage. They are at the mercy (sic) of the Salvos, Anglicare, Mission Australia, Centrecare and all those other profit-making arms of the...churches in Australia.."
"...The unemployed cannot cry: “I want my religious freedom”; or “I want to deal with a secular organisation”; or “I am prepared to disclose my private details to a government employment organisation, but not to a church or the private sector”. Nor is there any point in quoting section 116 of the Constitution (unless you have funds to run a constitutional challenge, which for the unemployed is unlikely). Nor is much to be gained from objecting to church bodies getting one’s information to make a profit out of effectively selling it to prospective employers: this is all, after all, all done for a fee. These bodies are profit-making, every unemployed person they place a statistic earning funds for these job providers."
The Australian also teaches us that if the state decides to contract out welfare and employment training services to faith groups they will fight tooth and nail to maintain their ability - funded by the taxpayer - to use their new powers to seek new converts and discriminate against non-believers in getting jobs in this sector. If you think the adoption row with the churches has been unpleasant just imagine how it would be if this kind of nonsense is introduced in the UK. It stinks and we don't want it here.